International Affairs
May 24, 2018
Will tensions with North Korea ease?

The Trump administration moved on a dizzying number of Foreign Policy fronts in 2018. President Trump in mid-May decided to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and vowed to rein in an aggressive Tehran that has been increasingly active in the Middle East. The region, meanwhile, continued to be convulsed by the Syrian civil war and Israeli-Palestinian clashes. Plans also have been underway for Trump to meet with North Korean President Kim Jong Un in June, after North Korea tested its largest-ever nuclear weapon in September. However, Trump on May 24 said he is canceling the meeting. China and the United States are trying to head off a trade war, and both sides have signaled that a compromise might be in the offing. Trump also hopes to improve relations with Russia, which has continued its muscle-flexing in Europe and Syria.

Angry over the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, a Palestinian protester throws rocks at Israeli security in the West Bank on May 15. (Getty Images/Adadolu Agency/Nedal Eshtayah)   Angry over the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, a Palestinian protester throws rocks at Israeli security in the West Bank on May 15. (Getty Images/Adadolu Agency/Nedal Eshtayah)

On May 8, President Trump fulfilled a signature campaign promise when he withdrew the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, had lifted economic sanctions on Iran in return for strict limits on, and monitoring of, the production of nuclear material. The agreement was a signature achievement of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

In announcing his decision, Trump called JCPOA “a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made. It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.” 1 Like most arms agreements, JCPOA deals with only one type of arms. It does not address ballistic missiles, which Iran has continued to develop. And it is silent on Iran’s aggression in the Middle East. In addition, some of its provisions will begin to expire in 10 years. Other U.S. sanctions deal with some of the JCPOA omissions, but Trump said Iran is nevertheless “on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.” 2

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