US-Iran Relations: Now and Where They Are Headed

by Kaitlyn Willoughby
Staff Writer

From tweets to news headlines, United States-Iran relations have been put in the spotlight over the past couple of months. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018. This deal was negotiated by the Obama administration in 2015, and was set up to roll back and dissolve Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Since the pull out by Trump, we have seen the rise of brinksmanship occurring between the two parties — a matter that becomes increasingly risky with the United States being a nuclear power and Iran threatening to join the ranks of the “nuclear states” as well. With the only thing standing between war being diplomatic relations among the Trump administration and the Iranian government, the world needs to be vigilant on keeping these two parties held accountable for a peaceful resolution. 

Republicans in the United States have been critical of the Iran Nuclear Deal since its implementation, and accordingly, upon his election,Trump pulled out of the deal by sanctioning Iran, claiming it was poorly negotiated. However the deal’s goal was to keep Iran from having nuclear weapons, which it was successful thus far at doing — so now, the question becomes why did Trump pull out of the deal? Academics agree, he has surrounded himself with a group of homogeneously-thinking foreign policy advisors that stood by him when he wanted to tear up the Obama legacy, or what was left of it.

Consequently, as expected, Iran started exceeding the Uranium enrichment limit  — a process necessary to build nuclear devices, that was set by the deal. Violating the deal was intended to give Iran leverage and negotiating power among the United States and other western countries throughout much of Europe. This negotiating power was essential for removing the sanctions by the United States that are currently crippling their economy. Iran is hoping that either the United States will re-enter negotiations or European nations will, in order to help loosen the grip that the America has over their economy. 

A nuclear bomb going off in the desert. 

While all of this is occurring on the nuclear front, there are other recent military actions taken by Iran that are being contested internationally. First, the bombing of two commercial United States ships that America believes Iran is responsible for, but Iran claims otherwise. Then, Iran shot down an unmanned United States drone. Iran claimed it justified as the drone was over domestic waters while the United States claims it was over international waters. These two incidents combined in a relatively close time frame caused the Trump administration to almost militarily strike Iran — in fact, all the resources necessary to pull off the attack were in order. However, at the last minute Trump reversed his orders, claiming he just learned it would kill too many civilians. In a big-picture view, this substantially impacts the future of United States-Iran negotiations. Considering that the United States lost credibility by pulling out of the deal while Iran was following it, therefore terminating a working treaty, Iran will no longer trust the American government. The next administration that may want to rebuild the Iran nuclear deal will have a difficult time earning trust back from Iran. Although Trump intended to have a more stringent agreement negotiated when he originally pulled out of the deal, this is near impossible when considered from Iran’s perspective  —- why would they commit themselves any further when the United States exited of a deal they were complying with?

This has impacts that extend into other aspiring nuclear states like North Korea, as well. North Korea sees what is happening overseas with Iran and the United States not complying with Iran’s nuclear deal. So, the likelihood of them being open to creating deals with the United States is diminished in turn. 

Looking at this from a United States domestic policy standpoint, many of the 2020 Democratic candidates hope to reenter  the Iran nuclear deal if elected into office. All but one agreed when this question was asked in the first democratic debate at the end of last month. The one was Cory Booker, United States Senator from New Jersey, who wanted to make a stronger deal where tAmerica could have gains, and Iran less. However, this seems nearly impossible to do considering the plummeting credibility of the United States, even considering the struggling Iranian economy.

Now looking forward, considering we were only ten minutes away from a war with Iran a few weeks ago, the prospects of conflict no longer seem impossible, and should be taken seriously. As the Trump Administration at this point states they have no intentions with going to war with Iran, they also have no intentions of loosening the sanctions in the status quo. While Iran is struggling and also doesn’t want to go to war with the United States, it may be the only option if no one is willing to engage in diplomatic talks. The next administration, Republican or Democrat, has a lot of work to do, not just with Iran, but on an international platform in order to restore credibility in diplomacy. In the next year and a half of the Trump administration, it is likely that nothing will be negotiated with Iran. Entrance into a possible war, is now an increasingly realistic prospect, in a world where major conflict has been stagnant for a long period of time. 

For more on US-Iran relations, check out a previous Prospect Journal Article

Photos courtesy of:

GPA Photo Archive

Edgar Languren

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