A Done Deal?
Iran Tests Ballistic Missile (And Trump)

The United Nations Security Council is convening an urgent meeting today following an Iranian ballistic missile test.  The Financial Times:

The US mission to the UN said it had requested urgent consultations on the missile test at the security council. Mark Toner, US state department spokesman, said the US was looking into whether the test violated the Security Council resolution that endorses the nuclear deal.

“When actions are taken that violate or are inconsistent with the resolution, we will act to hold Iran accountable and urge other countries to do so as well,” he said. […]

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, who is to meet Mr Trump this month, claimed that Iran’s latest missile test was a “flagrant violation” of the UN Security Council resolution. In a message on Facebook, he said that “Iranian aggression must not go unanswered”.

“In my coming meeting in Washington with President Trump, I plan to raise the issue of renewing sanctions against Iran in relation to this and other things,” he added.

We have noted before that Iran’s missile program was likely to provide an early test of Trump’s credibility on Iran. That moment has now arrived. The Obama administration repeatedly argued that such tests were not violations of the nuclear deal or the UN resolution that upheld it, often employing tortuous logic to make the case. But Trump has already staked out a more maximalist position, promising to stop Iran’s missile tests.

Does this spell the end of the Iran nuclear deal as we know it? Perhaps not immediately, since Trump’s closest advisers, and even Israel, have warned against killing the deal unilaterally. But that does not mean that the deal is safe in the long term. The foundations of the deal began to unravel long before Trump took office, as Tehran pushed the envelope by launching missile tests and threatening to develop nuclear-powered marine vessels. Iran’s latest test suggests that it has every intention of continuing such provocative moves, and the course now being urged by Netanyahu in response could chip away at the deal’s long-term prospects.

If Trump adheres to strict enforcement of the deal (including treating ballistic missile tests as a violation), imposes new sanctions on Iran (as Netanyahu is urging him to do), and pushes back more aggressively against Iranian proxies on other fronts, the shallow foundations of the deal could erode, sending it into a death spiral.  The Trump Administration’s response could be the first step down that road.

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