Here are four possible avenues Trump could take on the fate of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, under which Iran accepted restraints on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of UN, European and US sanctions.
Trump could claim that Iran is not living up to the deal by pointing to last week’s revelation by Israel of what it said was evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program, most of which was already known to the international community and UN nuclear inspectors.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran is in compliance with the agreement. While senior US officials acknowledge that Iran has complied with the letter of the deal, Trump points to Iran’s ballistic missile activity and regional conduct as evidence of the deal’s shortcomings.
Scenario 1: Trump re-issues sanctions waivers
Trump could waive US sanctions on Iran’s central bank and oil exports—as he has done every four months—while continuing talks with Germany, France and Britain on a side agreement that addresses what he sees as the deal’s flaws.
Scenario 2: Trump does not waive sanctions
Trump could decide not to waive the US sanctions, under which the penalties would take effect 180 days later, and leave it to European allies—who favor preserving the deal—to decide on their own course of action. In this scenario, Iran would have to decide whether it will continue to abide by the accord’s restrictions on its nuclear program.
Scenario 3: Trump doesn’t waive sanctions, but could reconsider
Trump could decide not to waive sanctions, but announce that he could restore the waivers before the penalties for violating the sanctions go back into effect if European allies reach a side agreement with the United States. Again, it would be Iran’s choice whether to continue abiding by the deal in the meantime.
Scenario 4: Trump doesn’t waive sanctions and says Iran violating deal
Trump could announce that he will not waive the sanctions, and, citing the purported evidence revealed by Israel, claim that Iran is violating the deal.
The United States could then use a dispute resolution mechanism laid out in the JCPOA to seek a “snap-back” of UN sanctions on Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said during a petroleum conference in Tehran on Tuesday, “It is possible that we will face some problems for two or three months, but we will pass through this.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said upon leaving on a short visit to Cyprus for the periodic summit with the leaders of Cyprus and Greece, “Of course I will also discuss regional issues with them, especially the increasing aggression of Iran in our region."
Addressing Trump’s expected announcement, Netanyahu said: “I suggest we all wait for 9 pm tonight.”
Itamar Eichner and Shahar Hay contributed to this report.