Second, any Trump attempt to completely abandon the JCPOA would face opposition both at home and abroad and damage the country’s reputation as a signatory to international treaties. Iran continuously reminded Trump about this credibility risk, which was echoed by the Russian and European parties to the JCPOA. Waiting for the US decision on the sanctions relief — or their extension — had been irritating Tehran since October 2017.
The bigger problem, however, was what America’s next step would be if Trump ultimately pulled out of the deal. The issue was discussed at the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference in October, and Zarif also planned to speak to EU members about it.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, who is responsible for Iran-related nuclear negotiations, claimed in mid-October that Moscow was already preparing for the worst-case scenario of the United States withdrawing from the JCPOA. But both Iran and Russia insisted there was no viable alternative to this “non-ideal deal.” Trump, Iran and Russia all acknowledge the JCPOA has its flaws, but each preferred to adhere to it for their own reasons.
Trump says the JCPOA fails to address Iran’s missile program and its aggressive activities in the region. But Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his Nov. 1 visit to Tehran that “unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA under any pretext is not acceptable, and there is no connection between the international agreement and the ballistic and defensive capacities of Iran.”