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Trump cedes global leadership by pulling out of Iran nuclear deal

| Saturday, May 12, 2018, 2:42 p.m.

President Trump last Tuesday followed through on his threat to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal — ignoring pleas from allies, nuclear nonproliferation experts, Republican lawmakers and some members of his own national security team.

Depending on how Iran reacts, this could be a decision with long-lasting and dire consequences in the Middle East and around the globe. The best-case scenario is that Iran and the other signatories to the deal ignore our withdrawal. That would result only in the United States becoming further isolated and estranged from longstanding allies.

The worst case is war in the Middle East or a nuclear-armed Iran that is willing to strike at America.

Trump made his disdain for the Obama-era Iran deal well known from the start of his campaign for president in 2015. Unfortunately, his public statements do not seem grounded in genuine familiarity with it.

The deal came together after years of painstaking work and international collaboration — first in developing a united front of crippling sanctions against the Iranian regime to bring the nation to the bargaining table, then years of multilateral negotiations with Iran, the European Union, China and Russia.

The deal wasn't perfect. No diplomatic solution ever is. But Iran made genuine, lasting concessions that pushed back the timetable in which it could conceivably become a nuclear power by at least a decade, if not longer.

Iran agreed to stringent monitoring and inspections. U.S. intelligence agencies and international organizations have verified that it has been complying with the agreement.

One of Trump's most repeated criticisms is that the deal expires in a few short years. In a rare statement criticizing Trump, President Obama makes a convincing argument that this common misconception is incorrect. Obama notes that the prohibition on Iran obtaining nuclear weapons is permanent and other provisions that do expire won't for 10 to 25 years.

Trump's action puts all of this at risk. Though the president says he wants to negotiate a new deal, the United States has almost no leverage to pull that off. There is absolutely no reason to think that the Trump administration on its own could reach a better deal than the Obama administration did by working in concert with the international community.

Instead, Iran is talking with Europe, Russia and China to see if the deal can be kept alive, though that is far from assured. Iran President Hassan Rouhani said he has instructed his nuclear agency to be prepared to resume enriching uranium to industrial levels.

Iran has no reason to include the United States in any further discussions. Trump has ceded global leadership to Europe and others. Germany, France and the United Kingdom all implored the president to remain in the deal.

Now they will be the ones acting to preserve international peace while America falls to the sidelines.

If the discussions between Iran and the other parties to the deal aren't fruitful, Iran will be back on the path to becoming a nuclear power. If they are fruitful, the United States will have isolated itself from our allies and others on the international stage for no good reason.

In either case, Trump made an awful decision.

— Miami Herald

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