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Trump Victory Casts Doubt Over Fate Of Iran Nuclear Deal

Nov 11, 2016
Originally published on November 11, 2016 5:41 pm
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As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to do away with one of President Obama's foreign policy achievements - the Iran nuclear deal, which sharply restricts Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Trump said at various times that he would kill the deal, renegotiate it or treat it like a contract. Though that doesn't mean it will survive. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports on what a President Trump might do.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: In March, Donald Trump addressed AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel group. That didn't go completely as planned. When he boasted that he probably knows more about the Iran nuclear deal than anybody else, the audience laughed in his face.

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DONALD TRUMP: I've studied this issue in great detail, I would say actually greater by far than anybody else.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: Believe me. Oh, believe me.

KENYON: But they loved it when he promised he'd make sure the deal between Iran and the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China would be history.

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TRUMP: My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.

(APPLAUSE)

KENYON: Later on, though, he spoke of renegotiating some parts of the deal or treating it as he would a bad business contract, by, quote, "policing that contract so tough that they don't have a chance." Analysts are now trying to figure out which of those paths, if any, Trump administration might follow. Many believe the bottom line is the election doomed both the deal and the remarkable coalition that forced Iran to the table.

DAVID ALBRIGHT: I think they will probably throw the deal aside. I mean, they'll set it up so Iran will leave the deal.

KENYON: David Albright with the Institute for Science and International Studies (ph) is critical of Iran's behavior, both before and after the agreement. He told a Washington audience that under the guise of acquiring conventional military hardware, Tehran is buying items that could be useful in a secret nuclear weapons program.

ALBRIGHT: In China, it can buy anything through shady trading companies. And China does very little to enforce its own export control laws or its sanctions.

KENYON: Speaking of sanctions, many analysts believe there will be new U.S. sanctions on Iran that will be the primary cause of the deal's demise. The Republican-led Congress is more eager than ever to punish Iran for its behavior in the region.

Mark Fitzpatrick (ph) with the Institute for International and Strategic Studies says America's coalition partners, especially the Europeans, are very worried about the deal falling apart, which could result in Iran resuming its push for a nuclear weapon. He says the deal includes provisions that would allow either side to walk away if the other is found in violation of the agreement. He says the U.S. insisted on those provisions to guard against Iranian cheating, but they could also be invoked by Iran if Washington replaces the old sanctions with new ones.

MARK FITZPATRICK: Now it's usually, you know, been anticipated it being the United States saying, hey, Iran violated. But in this case, United States impose new sanctions, Iran says violation and we go back to square one.

KENYON: Square one, if history's any guide, could be Iran reducing access by nuclear inspectors and ramping back up its nuclear program. Others argue that Iran would have no incentive to pull out of the deal because it's barely begun to revive its economy. Iran might well live with some new sanctions, they argue, despite the Supreme Leader's threat to set the deal on fire if the other side breaks it.

Ali Vaez with the International Crisis Group notes that Trump will take the oath of office around the one-year anniversary of the Iran deal.

ALI VAEZ: I think the chances of killing it by a thousand paper cuts by Congress are significant. And the odds of it surviving and seeing its second anniversary are really questionable.

KENYON: Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.