The Iran Nuclear Deal
On July 14, 2015, the Iran Nuclear Deal was announced. It was a historic agreement reached between the government of Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (U.S., Russia, China, U.K., and France) as well as the European Union. The deal was meant to lower the risk of nuclear weapons being developed by the Iranian government by instilling greater transparency, with the reward being the elimination of sanctions that had been previously placed against Iran. The deal included several key factors: the limitation of enrichment capacity, monitoring of Iranian nuclear facilities by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), eliminating reprocessing in nuclear facilities, and the lifting of sanctions by the EU and the U.S.
Enrichment capacity refers to the capacity to alter the composition of Uranium so that it becomes Uranium-235. Uranium in it's naturally occurring state is not capable of fueling nuclear weapons, but once it has been enriched, either through diffusion or centrifuge techniques, it becomes the necessary feature of nuclear weapons. Under the Iran Deal, the U.S. said it would ensure that Iran's Uranium stockpile fell by 98% and that it would eliminate about 60% of its centrifuges. Nuclear reprocessing is quite similar: it is the process by which you recover fissionable plutonium from used nuclear fuel. It was originally used to extract plutonium but has since been implemented to recover still usable material from spent fuel.
Okay, so that's a bit of the technicalities involved - why was the Iran Deal advantageous to the U.S. and why would be disadvantageous to discontinue it? The Iran Deal is advantageous to us because it prevents Iran from creating nuclear weapons and opens communication between our nations. Trump's justification for wanting to pull out of the deal is that it is no longer in the best interest of our national security because Iran continues to support terrorism in the Middle East. The response to this seems obvious: while this may be true, a nuclear weapons-armed Iran is a far more dangerous threat than one who is not, so there is no reason to pull out of the deal. Trump wants Congress to pass new legislation that would revise the original deal, addressing national security issues he thinks were left unanswered in the original, thereby eliminating the Deal in it's current form.
The consequences of this action would far exceed the obvious problem of Iran then being able to reinstate nuclear weapons proliferation. It would isolate the U.S. from the allies who entered the deal with us - the four other superpowers of the world not to mention the European Union and the U.N. It would also thereby isolate our allies and make them feel as though we had abandoned our commitment to globally drafted legislation. What's more, if Congress reinstates sanctions against Iran, "(it) will kick out the inspectors from the I.A.E.A. and refuse to discuss the Americans missing in Iran or held in Iranian prisons." While Trump has tried to justify his plans by saying that Iran has violated the agreement, the joint Chiefs of Staff testified in Congress this week that, . “Iran is not in material breach of the agreement, and I do believe . . . [it] has delayed the development of a nuclear capability."
Where do we stand currently? Trump is still leaning towards decertifying the agreement, which would let the current legislation die and effectively end the deal. His reasons for doing so are purely that he wants to roll back as much Obama era legislation as possible, despite the fact that decertifying this agreement would open the door for another nuclear threat on the international stage (reminder: see North Korea). Congress would then have 60 days to decide if it wants to reimpose sanctions, which would anger and undoubtedly already angry Iran even further. Prognosis: this is a very bad decision that will have very bad outcomes. Members of Congress and Trump's national security team should do everything they can to dissuade him from this decision.