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In the absence of international political consensus backing the reimposition of sanctions, a U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iran deal would exacerbate tensions between Washington and nearly every other major global power; encourage third countries (in Europe and Asia) to look for ways to circumvent U.S. sanctions; and accelerate the emergence of an international order increasingly designed to work around or against American interests. The uncertainty and partial deterrence produced by a U.S. decision to reinstate sanctions undoubtedly would seriously damage Iran’s economy—but with far less international cooperation in support of American actions, the aggregate pressure on Tehran would be inferior to what it was prior to the signing of the JCPOA. It is difficult to envision getting a better result with less leverage.

It is easy, however, to imagine getting a far worse result as the deal unravels. Iran may not be hurt badly enough by sanctions to capitulate to Trump’s terms, but the pain will sooner or later sour the Islamic Republic on the JCPOA.

Which brings us to the second virtual certainty: Iran will respond, although how quickly and with what severity remains unclear. Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, recently said that if the United States withdraws from the deal, Tehran’s reaction “will be stronger than what they imagine and they would see that within a week.” That may prove to be bluster. In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s reimposition of sanctions, Iran might choose the wiser course: to play the victim and retaliate in a relatively moderate manner, seeking to capitalize on international condemnation of the United States and maximize residual economic benefits from the deal. Under this scenario, Iran might take steps to hinder IAEA access or enhance their nuclear research and development beyond what is permitted under the JCPOA—violations, yes, but of lesser magnitude than a U.S. withdrawal, and thus violations the other signatories potentially could choose to ignore. The end result: Iran would have advanced its nuclear program; Europe, Russia, and China would continue to engage with Tehran; and there would be little the United States could do about it.

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Source : https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/04/europe-iran-deal/558800/

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