President Donald Trump on Tuesday can land his most devastating blow yet on the legacy of Barack Obama, but a move to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal could also spark a dangerous global crisis.
The decision could mark a signature moment for Trump’s presidency.
It gives him the chance to cement his “America First” philosophy but risks triggering unknowable consequences that in a worst case scenario could lead to war with Iran.
The decision gives the President a choice. Does he follow his instincts and honor a campaign promise to his loyal political base? Or does he risk dealing a severe rebuke to US allies who back the deal by re-imposing US sanctions on Iran?
Alternatively, he could claim the headline of refusing to continue waiving sanctions against Iran, but stop short of imposing new punishments immediately. That could keep open a narrow window for America’s European allies to continue trying to broker a broader deal that could keep Trump on board.
Given that Trump’s gut usually wins out over his concern for America’s friends or complicated calculations of geopolitical ramifications down the road, it’s no surprise most people think he will pull out of the deal.
“It’s pretty obvious to me that unless something changes in the next few days, I believe the President will not waive the sanctions,” CNN’s Jim Sciutto quoted a European diplomat as saying.
“And that will have various consequences that I think we have yet to fully to understand and spell out.”
Leaving the deal would represent another sharp turn away from the multilateral diplomacy that underpinned Obama’s foreign policy and America’s approach to the world for much of the 20th Century.
It would also introduce an illogical note into Trump’s own diplomatic strategy, since he would be withdrawing from one nuclear deal with a US enemy, while trying to negotiate another, with North Korea.