With the United States' standing in the global community at risk, the new Congress set to adjourn in January must prioritize mitigating the damage President Donald Trump did when he announced last May that the U.S. would exit the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, according to a new report by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
In "Restoring U.S. Credibility," released Monday, the group argued that the Trump administration's unilateral decision not only isolated the U.S. from its allies and damaged its credibility, but also made a violent escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran more likely while the accompanying sanctions Trump reintroduced in Iran have inflicted suffering on the Iranian people.
"Donald Trump's assault on the Iran nuclear deal sabotages America's credibility and influence on the world stage, and threatens to provoke a new nuclear crisis in the Middle East. The president is armed with an ideologically hawkish cabinet on track to fully collapse the accord, increasing the risks of both war with Iran and an Iranian nuclear weapon," said Jamal Abdi, president of NIAC, in a statement. "The benefits of re-entering the Iran Deal cannot be overstated."
"Wide support among 2020 contenders and key legislators in Congress would send a clear signal to all parties seeking to sustain the JCPOA that there is light at the end of the Trump tunnel." —NIAC
With that far-reaching damage in mind, NIAC offered in its report optimism that with American lawmakers' resolve, the U.S. could re-enter the agreement—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—and highlighted several proposals for beginning to restore the United States' global standing.
The group urged the incoming Congress to pass legislation that would suspend the new sanctions, which took effect in August and November, and reverse Trump's decision to breach the agreement, which was finalized in 2015 by the Obama administration after pain-staking negotiations.
Critics have noted that the sanctions Trump imposed have negatively impacted Iranians, making it difficult to access medications and other necessities, while doing nothing to convince Iranian officials to end what the president has called "destabilizing activities."
As Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told the Guardian on Monday, "Sanctions always hurt and they hurt ordinary people, but sanctions seldom change policy, and that has been the problem with U.S. sanctions all the time. They do not take people back to the negotiating table. In fact, they strengthen the resolve to resist."
Canceling the sanctions would "send an important signal that there is significant political will in the United States to salvage the agreement," wrote NIAC.
The report also advised 2020 presidential contenders to make clear that should they take over the presidency from Trump, they would return the U.S. to compliance with the JCPOA.
"Wide support among 2020 contenders and key legislators in Congress would send a clear signal to all parties seeking to sustain the JCPOA that there is light at the end of the Trump tunnel," reads the report. "This would increase the likelihood that Europe and others can maintain the agreement and that Iran remains within the constraints of the JCPOA"—as international investigators have confirmed it's remained since the deal was finalized in 2015.
Passing legislation to ensure the president cannot start a war by choice and holding the Trump administration accountable for the damage it's already done to the Iranian people with its sanctions—which the Washington Post reported Sunday have already kept medications from getting to those in need—were also recommended as important steps to take.
Trump acted against the demands of 56 percent of the American public when he withdrew from the deal, according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll at the time. The move was also condemned by the United Nations and a number of foreign heads of state, with then-U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying the agreement "represents a major achievement in nuclear non-proliferation and diplomacy and has contributed to regional and international peace and security."
Trump's decision came after International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had declared a number of times that Iran was fully cooperating with the terms of the agreement, giving the U.S. no legitimate reason to breach it.
The move was just one of a number of decisions by the Trump administration that have left the U.S. isolated from the rest of the global community, including the president's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and his decision to move the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, both done over the objections of American allies.
"It is crucial for America's standing in the world that we work to re-enter the JCPOA in the near future," said Narges Bajoghli, of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, of the report's findings. "This report provides concrete steps that Congress can take now to ensure that we return to the promises we made to the international community. Without doing so, America will continue to act as a force of instability in the Middle East."