No one should get excited at the prospect of Iran nearing the threshold of obtaining nuclear weapons, or at the thought of the United States and Israel considering military strikes to thwart Iran’s progress. But the harsh—and somewhat ironic—reality is that, even if Trump never scrapped the deal and Iran abided by it, the same situation would result as is unfolding today. Indeed, the nuclear deal is not collapsing. In a strange way, it is working as written—just a decade faster.
Under the deal, key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire over the next 12 years—the so-called sunset clauses. Beginning in 2026, Tehran is free to enrich uranium using advanced centrifuges and to install and operate more of its older models. In 2031, restrictions on the amount and level of enriched uranium that Iran can stockpile disappear. So, after these two dates, Iran will be able to build as large of a nuclear program as it wants—while enjoying relief from sanctions, if the United States were in the deal.
In other words, Iran is doing now in violation of the deal what it will soon be able to do with the international community’s blessing. Either way, the result is the same.