Majority Of Americans Say U.S. Should Stay In The Iran Nuclear Deal
A majority of Americans want the President to stay in the nuclear deal with Iran. That's unlikely to matter to him.
A new poll shows that most Americans want the United States to stay in the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), the deal between Iran and six other nations that has largely brought Iran’s nuclear research program to a standstill:
Almost two-thirds of Americans — 63% — believe that the US should not withdraw from the agreement made with Iran to prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons. Only 29% believe the US should withdraw, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.
President Donald Trump is expected to announce Tuesday whether he will remove the US from the deal, which lifted some sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. Trump has repeatedly criticized the agreement, which was made under former President Barack Obama, as a bad deal and has threatened to pull out the US even though Iran has been certified by a UN organization as complying with the terms of the pact.
The strongest proponents of withdrawing from the treaty are Republicans (51% say the US should withdraw), conservatives (47%) and those who approve of the job Trump is doing as President (46%).
Support for remaining in the agreement comes even as a strong majority of 62% say they believe Iran has violated the terms of the agreement. Nineteen percent said Iran has not violated the terms, with the same share saying they have no opinion.
Those who approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency (80%) are apt to say Iran has violated the agreement’s terms, while Democrats (30%) are most likely to say Iran has not violated those terms.
Almost 4 in 10 — 37% — say they approve of the way Trump is handling the US relationship with Iran, while 46% disapprove. A sizable 17% have no opinion.
Positive takes on Trump for his handling of Iran are not as high as they are on other comparable issues, especially among his base. While 82% of Republicans approve of the way the President is handling foreign affairs, only 73% approve of his handling of the US relationship with Iran.
At the same time, the percentage of people saying Iran poses a serious threat to the United States has ticked up since last year. Seventy-five percent say Iran is either “a very serious threat” or “a moderately serious threat”, compared with 69% in October and 71% in August.
The share who consider Iran a “very serious threat” has increased 10 points since October — from 30% to 40%. That’s a high during the Trump presidency and about on par with the threat level seen in April 2015, around the time the framework for the nuclear deal was agreed on.
As noted, the President announced on Twitter yesterday that he would be announcing his intentions with regard to the JCPOA at 2:00 pm this afternoon in Washington. The expectation is that he will announce that the United States is withdrawing from the agreement, and there’s certainly plenty of reason to believe this is the case.
As a candidate, for example, Trump claimed repeatedly that he could have negotiated a better deal than the one that seven-way talks in Switzerland came up with in the summer of 2015, and he used that to repeatedly bash the Obama Administration, Hillary Clinton, and even some fellow Republicans throughout the campaign. In September 2015, while Congress was considering the agreement, Trump co-hosted a rally in Washington with fellow Republican candidate for President Ted Cruz that sought to rally support against the agreement. Ultimately that effort failed and the deal went into effect but that didn’t stop Trump from continuing to criticize the agreement throughout the primary and General Election campaigns and to continue to spread baseless claims about the agreement that had become popular in conservative media.
Once he became President, Trump continued to attack the agreement but ultimately decided to take a pass on his first opportunity withdraw from it a year ago when he decided to lift another set of sanctions as called for under the agreement. It was clear at the time, though, that the President did this reluctantly and that the entire deal was in danger of falling apart depending on what the United States did next. The President wasn’t quite as circumspect in October when the next opportunity to attack came. At that point, he declined to certify to Congress that Iran was in compliance with the agreement This happened notwithstanding the fact that both Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Iran was complying with its obligations under the agreement and that staying in the JCPOA was in the national interests of the United States. It also occurred notwithstanding the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is charged with monitoring Iran’s compliance with the agreement, has said each time it has been required to report on the status of the agreement that Iran is living up to its obligations under the agreement.
Most recently, French President Emmanual Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both came to the United States for the express purpose of trying to convince Trump to keep the United States in the deal. Additionally, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has said he agrees with some of Trump’s criticisms of the JCPOA, wrote an Op-Ed in The New York Times arguing that the United States should stay in the agreement. Those arguments likely fell on deaf ears, though, a fact seemingly acknowledged by President Macron at the end of his visit last month when he said that Trump was likely to pull out of the deal for “domestic reasons.” In the meantime, Macron and Merkel, along with British Prime Minister Theresa May continue to work behind the scenes to try to find a way to save the JCPOA, but those efforts seem as though they will be in vain.
Given all of this, it’s unlikely that these poll results will have any impact on Trump’s decision and, indeed, they may reinforce his determination to walk away from the deal. As indicated above, while the poll shows that Americans as a whole oppose walking away from the deal, a majority of Republicans, conservatives, and Trump supporters are in favor of such action. Trump’s seemingly inevitable decision to walk away from the JCPOA would likely just reinforce that support, and as President Macron’s statement makes clear this seems to be all that Trump cares about. As I’ve said before, walking away from the JCPOA would be just as foolish as decertifying Iranian compliance was. It would most likely embolden the hardliners in Iran while simultaneously undermining the United States just as we are on the verge of high stake negotiations with North Korea regarding its nuclear weapons program. Despite, or perhaps because of that, it looks as though this is exactly what the President will do later today.