Back in 2015, Iran and the international community shook on a deal to curb the country’s nuclear enthusiasm. There were a lot of opinions. And now, President Trump said he's pulling the US out of the deal.
Gimme some background.
Iran had been working on a nuclear program for decades. It’s said it wants to create nuclear energy for peaceful purposes (think: electricity). But the US, EU, UN and others think it wants to build a nuclear weapon. To try and stop that from happening, they hit Iran with heavy sanctions over the years, which crippled the country’s economy.
Why does no one want Iran to have nuclear weapons?
Because what happens in Iran does not stay in Iran. The country funds terror groupsthat’ve been in the headlines in recent years (think: Hezbollah, Hamas). Israelis are worried because not only have these groups pledged Israel’s destruction, Iran’s leaders have also said Israel should be 'eliminated.' Plus, the West thought Iran had been going Walter White on them by literally going underground with parts of its program.
Tell me about the deal.
In late 2013, Iran and a crew of countries – the US, Germany, the UK, France, China, Russia – agreed to a temporary nuclear deal while they worked out a more permanent solution. Those talks got extended three times before they finally agreed to a deal...almost two years later.
What's in the deal?
Iran agreed to severely scale back its stockpile of uranium for a decade. Meaning it would be a lottt harder for the country to prep a nuclear weapon. In return, the international community flipped and reversed all the sanctions. So Iran was able to get its economic groove back. And to make Congress happy, President Obama needed to ‘certify’ the deal every 90 days – aka check up on whether Iran is keeping its side of the bargain. Like always, there were lots of opinions.
What did people say?
Iran...We really don’t know what all the fuss is about. This program is peaceful. Plus it gives us our economy back. What’s not to like?
Israel...Has everyone lost their minds? Before the deal was in place, Israeli PM Netanyahu felt so strongly that he controversially came to the US to tell Congress that the deal is bad news. Because, reminder, Israel and Iran have a ‘hate-hate’ relationship. Israel says Iran's nuclear goal has not been peaceful – and that it has receipts to prove it.
Saudi Arabia...Since Iran is our least favorite neighbor in the area, we have some very skeptical eyebrows raised over this nuclear program. We think the deal will give Iran the economic wiggle room to focus on the instability in the region. Where we’re fighting against them for influence. And if Iran gets nuclear weapons, we want them, too.
Russia…We have a deal to build nuclear reactors in Iran, which is our way of making sure Iran’s program stays peaceful, while also making a few rubles. Plus, the friendship bracelet looks good on us. And it makes our frenemy, the US, squirm. Muahaha.
The Obama Administration…Iran’s nuclear program needs a bouncer to watch over things. If Iran decided to go rogue – which would mean cheating on its end of the deal – the US would have time to step in and stop them.
The GOP…If you give Iran a nuclear inch, it will make a weapon. We don't trust them, and we think this is a bad deal. So bad that we wrote a friendly note to Iranian leaders back when the deal was signed reminding them that President Obama is temporary, but Congress is forever. And that the next prez could take the whole thing back “with the stroke of a pen.” Foreshadowing.
Fast forward to President Trump. He's been very much not on board. Especially the fact that the deal doesn’t cover Iran’s ballistic missile program. And that a lot of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program go away in a few years.
He 'decertified' the deal back in 2017. Which gave Congress 60 days to decide whether to re-impose sanctions on Iran and effectively end the deal. It didn’t do anything. So after a few months Trump said, 'I'm pulling out now.' And said he's bringing se...er, sanctions back. Yup.
All of this comes as the US is arguing with another rogue nuclear state (North Korea) to put its weapons down. Some say this move shows the North the US isn't messing around. Others say it tells the North a nuclear deal with the US isn't worth it.
PS: Want to know more about the history of the Iran nuclear deal? Skimm Notes – our in-app audio series – has you covered.