All this means the administration is in a strong position to negotiate a viable deal. But it missed an opportunity last month when it failed to deliver a crippling blow to Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s puppet in Syria, for his use of chemical weapons. Trump’s appeals in his speech to the Iranian people also sounded hollow from a president who isn’t exactly a tribune of liberalism and has disdained human rights as a tool of U.S. diplomacy. And the U.S. will need to mend fences with its European partners to pursue a coordinated diplomatic approach.
The goal is to put Iran’s rulers to a fundamental choice. They can opt to have a functioning economy, free of sanctions and open to investment, at the price of permanently, verifiably and irreversibly forgoing a nuclear option and abandoning their support for terrorists. Or they can pursue their nuclear ambitions at the cost of economic ruin and possible war. But they are no longer entitled to Barack Obama’s sweetheart deal of getting sanctions lifted first, retaining their nuclear options for later, and sponsoring terrorism throughout.
Trump’s courageous decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal will clarify the stakes for Tehran. Now we’ll see whether the administration is capable of following through.