On May 12, President Donald Trump has to decide whether to waive a set of economic sanctions against Iran and continue U.S. adherence to the international agreement that has placed significant limits on Iran’s nuclear program. What will he do? Even he doesn’t seem to know. On Monday, he said only: “We’ll see what happens.”

What ought to happen is that the president should continue to comply with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, even as the U.S. and its European allies discuss ways to strengthen the agreement. Ominously, however, Trump continues to signal that he is willing to demolish the deal.

Never mind that Trump’s own secretary of Defense, James N. Mattis, told Congress last week that the agreement provides for “pretty robust” oversight of Iran’s nuclear activities. Or that French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pleaded with Trump to adhere to the agreement in their recent visits to the White House.

Trump seems more persuaded by the objections of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who earlier in the day ostentatiously revealed captured documents that he said proved that “Iran did not come clean about its nuclear program” or its historical efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Trump said Netanyahu’s disclosures “showed that I was 100 percent right” to denounce the nuclear agreement during the 2016 campaign.

Actually, as experts were quick to point out, it wasn’t news that Iran in the past had aspired to develop nuclear weapons — that, after all, was the rationale for the agreement — or that it has dissembled about its previous efforts.

Instead, Iran’s history of duplicity makes the case for extending the life of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities that expire after 10 to 15 years, for placing limitations on Iran’s ballistic missile program and for providing for even more rigorous inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The U.S. and its European allies have been discussing ways to achieve those objectives and to counter Iran’s “destabilizing” activities in the Middle East. On Sunday, Macron raised some of these concerns in a telephone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

But it’s hard to see Iran responding positively to such efforts if Trump abrogates the current agreement (and divides the U.S. from its allies). In fact, such a rupture could have even more drastic consequences, such as a decision by Iran to renounce the agreement or even to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

That’s not the only danger. As Trump prepares to engage Kim Jong Un, a decision by the U.S. to renounce the nuclear agreement will cast doubt on the reliability of any commitment this country might make in negotiations with North Korea. It’s not too late for Trump to reverse course.

Editorial by the Los Angeles Times

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