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Reassessing the Iran Deal: An Institute Backgrounder

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Even before the 2016 presidential election, Washington Institute scholars were looking ahead to one of the top challenges that would face the incoming president: addressing the flaws and omissions in the Iran nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), while incorporating that agreement within a comprehensive Iran policy.

As President Trump has engaged in an Iran policy review, Institute scholars have weighed in with practical, non-partisan advice on how the president can strengthen the JCPOA while bolstering, rather than undermining, transatlantic and Middle-Eastern cooperation in addressing the multiple challenges posed by Tehran. At the same time, Institute scholars have put forward granular, pragmatic advice on how the Trump Administration can push back on Iran’s regional challenge.

The publications below provide useful background material for understanding the current debate over the future of U.S. Iran policy.

Infographic: Iran Deal 'Decertification'

A quick guide to understanding the background, context, and potential impact of President Trump's decision not to certify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in one concise infographic.

JCPOA under the Gun (Part 1): Trump's Five Decisions

By James Jeffrey, Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow

Any U.S. pushback against the nuclear deal with Iran will carry consequences, along with potential side benefits, but some courses of action could be more self-defeating than others. Ambassador James Jeffrey explains the five decisions the president faces on Iran as well as the likely consequences of his answers to each.

JCPOA under the Gun (Part 2): A Middle Course?

By Katherine Bauer, Blumenstein-Katz Family Fellow and Patrick Clawson, Morningstar Senior Fellow, Director of Research

The threat of decertifying the nuclear deal gives the administration an opening with those who wish to preserve it, so the president should use this leverage wisely rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach. Sanctions expert Katherine Bauer and Iran scholar Patrick Clawson lay out the full range of U.S. policy tools and the realistic objectives Washington can hope to achieve.

Decertifying the Iran Deal Wouldn't Have to Kill It

By Dennis Ross, William Davidson Distinguished Fellow, Counselor, in the Wall Street Journal

European leaders have little room to maneuver on the Iran nuclear deal, given domestic political concerns and President Trump's unpopularity in their countries. A change of tone from the White House, emphasizing a desire to work with European allies and not precipitously leave the deal, would help keep partners aligned in the weeks ahead. Ambassador Dennis Ross maps out a strategy for outreach to American allies.

Deterring Tehran: An Iran Policy for the New Administration

By Michael Singh, Lane-Swig Senior Fellow, Managing Director

The United States should adopt a strategy on Iran that erects daunting defenses to dissuade the Islamic Republic from challenging the interests of the United States and its allies and that imposes sharp, painful costs should Iran do so nonetheless. In this transition paper for the new administration, Institute managing director Michael Singh details an Iran policy for the new administration.

Testing the Limits: Iran's Ballistic Missile Program, Sanctions, and the IRGC

By Michael Eisenstadt, Kahn Fellow, Director, Military & Security Studies Program

In this excerpt of his congressional testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, military expert, Michael Eisenstadt, lays out the short- and long-term strategic challenges posed by allowing Tehran to continue building up its missile arsenal.

Reinforcing the Role of Sanctions in Restraining Iran

By Katherine Bauer, Blumenstein-Katz Family Fellow, Patrick Clawson, Mornginstar Senior Fellow, Director of Research, and Matthew Levitt, Director, Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, Fromer-Wexler Fellow

Even while the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is in place, the Trump administration could bring significant pressure to bear on Iran. In this Policy Note, Institute fellows Katherine Bauer, Patrick Clawson, and Matthew Levitt look at the role of sanctions in restraining Iran's regional aggression and disrupting its global-terrorism, money-laundering, and procurement networks.

Trump Can Make the Most of a Bad Iran Deal

By Michael Singh, Lane-Swig Senior Fellow, Managing Director in The New York Times

In concert with its European allies, the United States should close loopholes, increase intelligence cooperation, and push international inspectors to interpret their mandate more broadly. Former National Security Council member Michael Singh shows how the Iran nuclear deal can be strengthened without scrapping it entirely.

The Right Way to Pressure Iran

By Dennis Ross, William Davidson Distinguished Fellow, Counselor, in the New York Daily News

Instead of decertifying the nuclear deal, and thus isolating the United States from its allies, Washington should impress upon Tehran the immense costs of producing a weapon. Ambassador Dennis Ross offers insights into how the United States can build the legitimacy the case against Iran's bad behavior - and thereby restore the credibility of American deterrence.

Confronting the Full Range of Iranian Threats

In practical terms, scrapping and replacing the JCPOA is a nonstarter, so the administration should instead focus on countering Iran as its top regional priority -- and decide how it will respond when Tehran pushes back.

Testimony by James Jeffrey, Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee

Iran's Military Sites Continue to Haunt the Nuclear Accord

Given the IAEA's legal uncertainty about Parchin and the Security Council's discord about further inspections, the Trump administration needs to decide how hard to press for more answers on weaponization issues.

By Jay Solomon, Segal Distinguished Visiting Fellow

Here's How to Fix But Not Nix the Iran Deal

After decertifying the JCPOA, President Trump now has leverage to negotiate a better agreement.

By Robert Satloff, Executive Director and Howard P. Berkowitz Chair in U.S. Middle East Policy

Countering Iran's Missile Proliferation in Yemen

Tehran is using the Houthis to test President Trump's resolve, as mounting evidence shows that it is helping the rebels build long-range missiles capable of hitting Gulf capitals.

By Michael Knights, Lafer Fellow