American and Iranian hard-liners await the end of the nuclear deal

We are entering the final stretch ahead of President Trump's likely decision to pull out of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. His administration has to decide by May 12 whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran, ones that have been repeatedly waived since the agreement was signed by the Obama administration in 2015. The recent appointments of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton — two vociferous Iran hawks who were doggedly opposed to the deal — seem to make it all the more likely that Trump will follow through on his threats to scuttle the deal.

Many of America's key allies, especially European leaders, have pleaded with the Trump administration to keep the deal intact. Over months of negotiations, they have sought to convince their American interlocutors that adhering to the agreement and working to improve it are preferable to scrapping it altogether. In the view of international monitors, foreign governments and even the State Department, Iran is complying with the terms of the agreement, and there is no better option on the table to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"We should not scrap it unless we have a good alternative," said U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres to the BBC on Thursday, calling the agreement an "important diplomatic victory" that is necessary amid "dangerous times."

As Iran and Israel square off in Syria, things could get even more dangerous. A Monday presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — which featured supposedly new revelations of Iranian perfidy and bad faith — emboldened Trump and his lieutenants, though experts and European diplomats pointed to Netanyahu's document trove as further reason to preserve an arrangement that keeps Iran's program firmly in check.

The deal's critics are unmoved, and they are pushing for what they consider a long-overdue confrontation with Tehran. "The president should stop waiting for Congress or the Europeans to get serious about renegotiating the JCPOA," wrote Bush-era official Jamil Jaffer, using the formal abbreviation for the Iran deal. "Instead, he should force everyone’s hand and restore American leverage by reimposing sanctions now."

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