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Though Iran has thus far remained in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the US decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal could be the first domino to fall, setting off a chain of escalatory events throughout the region.

“This change is US policy is happening at a time when the region is really combustible,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, president of Gryphon Partners and an Atlantic Council board director. Ultimately, the regional impact of US President Donald J. Trump’s May 8 decision to withdraw from the JCPOA will depend on Tehran, and what it decides to do next: play nice on the world stage, or retaliate in its own backyard. 

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Early in his presidency, Donald J. Trump set out to achieve “the ultimate deal”: Israeli-Palestinian peace. The US president deputized his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with the task, claiming the feat could be achieved within the first year of his administration.

A little over a year later that “ultimate deal” is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the Trump administration appears to have further jeopardized its own prospects of brokering such a deal by relocating the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and again failing to acknowledge the potential for Jerusalem to also be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

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Relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have been fractured for much of the past year. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in June 2017 citing reports that Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani had made remarks of the United States while offering support for Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran, and claiming Doha’s policies fueled regional terrorism and extremism.

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US President Donald J. Trump on May 8 pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal saying the agreement did not satisfactorily address the Islamic Republic’s ability to build a nuclear bomb or limit its “malign activity.” He also signed a memorandum to reimpose sanctions on Iran.

Trump’s decision will likely strain Washington’s ties with its European allies who had urged him to remain in the deal.

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Early in the morning on April 9, missiles streaked through the Syrian sky toward the Tiyas (T-4) air base in Homs province, northeast of Damascus. Besides Syrian forces, the base hosts Russians and Iranians, members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force. Several Iranians were killed in the strikes.

Syria, Russia, and Iran blamed Israel for the attack on T-4.

Israel neither confirmed nor denied that it carried out the strikes.

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French President Emmanuel Macron appears to be performing a delicate balancing act of addressing US President Donald J. Trump’s dissatisfaction with the Iran nuclear deal while seeking to keep the multilateral agreement intact.

Trump has been crystal clear since his presidential campaign that he views the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the Iran nuclear deal—as a “bad deal.” He has criticized it as insufficient and unable to deny Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Further, he says it does not address Iran’s regional activities or curb its ballistic missile program. Trump has also made clear he wants a more effective mechanism to do all of the above.

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The future of the Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—hangs in the balance as the May 12 deadline set by US President Donald J. Trump to “fix” the deal or to walk away from it approaches.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have preserving the JCPOA at the top of their agenda in meetings with Trump in Washington this week.

In an interview with Rachel Brandenburg, director of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Security Initiative, the Atlantic Council’s Matthew Kroenig, deputy director for strategy in the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, and Aaron Stein, senior fellow in the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, offer different perspectives on whether the deal has worked and the possible consequences should Trump decide to pull out of the multilateral agreement.

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