In a move to derail an agreement he has frequently dubbed “insane,” “horrible,” and “the worst,” President Trump announced Tuesday that he is withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump said the U.S. will reinstate sanctions it had waived as part of the deal, adding that “any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States.” The move puts the U.S. in direct violation of the agreement, and raises the question of what, if anything, Europe can do to salvage it.
The U.S. and Iran are not the only parties to the deal. France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, and Russia are also signatories, which means that even if the U.S. withdraws, the agreement doesn’t necessarily go away entirely—it depends on how the Iranians respond. The Europeans, for example, could attempt to salvage the deal by continuing to do business with Iran; in exchange, Iran could continue to observe the limits set by the nuclear deal. Both sides, however, could then be at risk of being targeted by U.S. sanctions.
Trump’s decision to quit the 2015 accord, under which Iran accepted strict limits on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, comes days before a May 12 deadline by which the president has to decide whether to extend a waiver on Iranian oil sanctions. These sanctions, first imposed by the Obama administration in 2012, cut Iran’s oil exports in half and were eventually waived under the JCPOA. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal and impose nuclear-related sanctions has consequences for companies doing business in Iran. John Bolton, Trump’s national-security adviser, told reporters that new contracts with Iran will be banned, while existing ones will be given a wind-down period, which for oil amounts to 180 days.