In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, U.S. President Donald Trump delivered strong words about the Iranian nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, bringing the issue of Iran's nuclear program and of its foreign policy into sharp focus. The JCPOA has quickly become a key issue among those being considered at the General Assembly happening now in New York City. The White House's disdain for the deal as written, especially its duration, is clear. The Oct. 15 deadline for the United States to certify Iran's compliance with the deal — or to possibly note how the deal opposes U.S. security interests — is quickly approaching, and Trump's decision on the deal could affect many countries, some of which disagree with his assessments.
During his address to the General Assembly on Sept. 19, President Trump called the JCPOA an "embarrassment" and promised it wouldn't be the last time he discussed it. Today, the president announced that he has made a decision on the deal but declined to reveal any details about how he planned to proceed. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that Trump's address does not necessarily mean that the United States will pull out of the deal, but she has consistently said herself that the deal needs to be strengthened.
Though some nations have been unsettled by the President's conclusions, others have echoed Trump's concerns, calling for changes. French President Emmanuel Macron called the JCPOA a good and robust agreement in his address, and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council also remain supportive of the deal. In contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his address Sept. 19 that the JCPOA should either be cancelled or amended.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will attend a JCPOA meeting tonight at the General Assembly, along with European representatives and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Tillerson has recently said that the JCPOA's sunset provisions are not sensible, hinting at recent quiet talks by U.S. officials about the possibility of cobbling together a JCPOA extension that would limit uranium enrichment beyond the deal's 2025 expiration date. European powers, however, have not commented on or indicated that they are considering such an extension. Iranian officials remain focused on defending the JCPOA as it is written. In his address to the General Assembly today, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani insisted — as he has before — that Iran would not be the first to violate the terms of the deal.
The United States will face a lot of European resistance to pulling out of the deal, but that won't necessarily stop Trump from saying in October that the United States should not stay in the JCPOA as it is written. Iranian officials have already said in previous weeks that if the United States pulls out of the deal, it will remain committed to it, as long as the rest of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are still on board. Even if it stays part of the JCPOA, the United States will consider ways to amend it, such as layering on additional sanctions, as a means to contain Iran's regional activities.