Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Saving the Iran Nuclear Deal

US President Donald Trump is right to say that more must be done to rein in Iran. But it is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the nuclear deal that Trump is attempting to sink – that provides the foundation for such efforts.

MADRID – There is an old rule of thumb in diplomacy: if you cannot reach agreement on an issue, expand the scope of the discussion. Today, the United States may be set to turn this approach on its head, broadening the discussion to destroy an already-existing agreement. And not just any agreement: President Donald Trump’s administration wants to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal. But while Trump described that deal as an “embarrassment” in his address to the United Nations, the international community’s agreement with Iran is actually one of the most important diplomatic achievements of the last decade.

Iran has always been a tough nut to crack in international negotiations. With power distributed among a seemingly endless array of forces and figures, which often contradict or even compete with one another, the negotiating environment is difficult to understand, much less navigate.

In this context, reaching a “grand bargain” that would address the full range of Iran’s bad behavior – not just its nuclear and missile programs, but also its support for international terrorism, regional destabilization, and human-rights violations – is unrealistic. To get anywhere, the subject matter must be kept as narrow and discrete as possible.

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