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Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA allowed Iran to get closer to a bomb.


Yishai Gelb


The narrative that former President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018 has allowed Iran to get closer to developing a nuclear bomb is a contentious and complex issue. However, a closer examination of the JCPOA’s terms and the geopolitical context reveals that the deal itself may have inadvertently enabled Iran to become more dangerous, and that the withdrawal aimed to bring peace closer, not farther away.

The JCPOA and Its Flaws

The JCPOA, signed in 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany), was intended to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. While it temporarily restricted Iran’s nuclear activities, it also had significant shortcomings:

  1. Sunset Provisions: The deal included sunset clauses, which meant that many of the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program would expire after 10-15 years. This allowed Iran to eventually resume activities such as uranium enrichment, which are critical for developing nuclear weapons.

  2. Insufficient Inspections: The inspection regime under the JCPOA was not as rigorous as needed. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors had limited access to military sites, where illicit nuclear activities could occur. The Israeli Mosad revealed in 2018 many documents providing evidence that Iran continues its nuclear development under the JCPOA.

  3. Ballistic Missile Development: The JCPOA did not address Iran’s ballistic missile program, which is crucial for delivering nuclear warheads. This omission allowed Iran to continue developing and testing missiles, posing a significant threat to regional and global security.

Post-Withdrawal Developments

Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA was predicated on these flaws and the belief that a tougher stance would be more effective. Here’s why this move was aimed at bringing peace closer:

  1. Reimposition of Sanctions: The U.S. reimposed stringent economic sanctions on Iran, targeting its oil exports, financial sector, and other critical industries. These sanctions aimed to cripple Iran’s economy and reduce the funds available for its nuclear program and regional proxy activities.

  2. Pressure for a Better Deal: The withdrawal was intended to pressure Iran back to the negotiating table to agree to a more comprehensive deal that would address the JCPOA’s deficiencies, including the sunset clauses, inspection protocols, and missile development.

  3. Regional Alliances: The U.S. bolstered alliances with regional powers such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, who viewed Iran as a significant threat. This coalition aimed to counter Iran’s influence and prevent it from developing nuclear capabilities.

Did Withdrawal Bring Iran Closer to a Bomb?

Critics argue that without the JCPOA, Iran has accelerated its nuclear activities. However, it’s essential to consider that even under the JCPOA, Iran continued to advance its nuclear knowledge and infrastructure. The deal merely delayed Iran’s potential breakout time rather than preventing it altogether.

The reimposed sanctions have significantly strained Iran’s economy, limiting its ability to finance its nuclear ambitions and regional interventions. Additionally, increased diplomatic and military pressure from the U.S. and its allies has sent a clear message to Iran about the consequences of pursuing a nuclear weapon.


The notion that Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA brought Iran closer to a nuclear bomb is overly simplistic. The JCPOA had inherent flaws that allowed Iran to maintain its nuclear capabilities and regional aggression. The withdrawal aimed to rectify these issues by imposing severe economic sanctions, pressuring Iran for a more comprehensive deal, and strengthening regional alliances to ensure a more secure and peaceful Middle East.

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