- The American Conservative - http://www.theamericanconservative.com -

The Costs of Reneging on the Nuclear Deal

Robert Merry correctly observes that Trump’s planned “decertification” of the nuclear deal will announce to the world that the U.S. doesn’t keep its word. He asks [1]:

But what are the consequences when a nation reneges on a solemn agreement with not just another nation but six other nations and a union of many more—with the entire world watching? How do other nations deal with a country that blithely casts aside the commitments it accepted through what were assumed to be good-faith negotiations?

The consequences for reneging on the deal will be uniformly negative for the U.S. Even if those consequences aren’t quite as bad as some experts are predicting [2], they will include damage to our government’s reputation, a loss of trust with close allies, and much greater skepticism if the U.S. asks for international cooperation on another difficult negotiation later on. The U.S. under a different administration may be able to repair the damage and regain the trust that Trump is about to squander, but it would be far better if one of Trump’s successors didn’t have to clean up his mess. Trump’s intention to blow up the deal is all the more alarming to other governments, especially our allies, because it is so clearly unnecessary and irrational.

The usual suspects that normally can’t shut up about the dangers to U.S. “credibility” are remarkably quiet these days. Most of the same people who absurdly worried that our entire alliance system would come crashing down if the government didn’t bomb Syria in 2013 have no problem with reneging on a carefully negotiated multilateral agreement. The people normally obsessed with “credibility” care about it only when it provides an excuse to launch attacks and start wars. Hawks tell us that American “credibility” is always and everywhere on the line if we don’t “do something” in response to this or that crisis, but when it comes to blowing up a major nonproliferation accord that has broad international support many of the same hawks are quite eager to do it.


Typical interventionist “credibility” arguments are nonsense, but there is a real political cost to breaking major agreements that our government negotiated. Reneging on the nuclear deal will further shake the confidence of allies in the quality of our political leadership, and it will make them less likely to support future U.S. diplomatic efforts than they would otherwise be. The U.S. may still be able to obtain their cooperation when it serves their interests, but the costs for the U.S. will be higher after Trump shows how unreliable our government can be. Trump won’t just be undermining the nuclear deal when he refuses to certify it in a few days’ time. He will also be making U.S. diplomacy less effective and more costly for future presidents.

4 Comments (Open | Close)

4 Comments To "The Costs of Reneging on the Nuclear Deal"

#1 Comment By Stamford Commuter On October 10, 2017 @ 8:36 am

But it will make Sheldon Adelson and Netanyahu and the neocons and the Israel Lobby happy. And that’s all that matters.

Screw our own interests. Screw our allies. Screw everybody except the foreign agents who paid good money for our elected politicians in Washington.

#2 Comment By Christian Chuba On October 10, 2017 @ 9:17 am

The U.S. has never kept an agreement with a country on our ‘bad guy’ list that spans Administrations. There is no reason for any such country to enter into an agreement but to resist with force. This is fine as long as the U.S. always wants to resort to force.
1. Saddam – eliminated WMD, accused of having WMD.
2. Gaddafi.
3. Now Iran.

Can anyone find a counter-example?
Even our agreements with Russia are dicey such as NATO expansion. The Hawks are probing START and INF.

#3 Comment By SteveK9 On October 10, 2017 @ 12:47 pm

You’ve left out a very important consequence. This will accelerate the process of reducing the role of the dollar in international finance, that is currently underway, led by China and Russia. It is very clear now to everyone in the World, that much of America’s ‘power’ derives from the role of the dollar as a reserve currency and medium of exchange. In fact, without that role, the trillions being wasted on these wars and military spending would not be possible. In that sense, this is good for America, because the sooner we give up the idea of a world-wide empire, the better for the World and for us.

#4 Comment By Omar On October 10, 2017 @ 4:59 pm

All this is about Russia, not Iran. The US sees Russia as its only real rival in the world. Shias, via Iran, are forging an alliance with Russia, and its worrying to the US. Russia used to be defeated – but if they ally with Shias in the Mid-East they will ride back to power.
So it becomes imperative to deal with Iran in order to weaken Russia. Obama tried to coax Iran into the Western camp with money and the promise of Boeings and BMWs. Trump went 180 in the other direction and wants to strangle the Iranian economy.
The US really can’t stop the rise of Iran and Russia even if they bomb and sanction Iran because the world today is diversifying away from US controlled financial structures and bombing has proven ineffective in so many past US wars.