US President Donald Trump announced last month that Washington would continue to honor the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, and waived sanctions against Teheran once again. But he also issued an “ultimatum”: The agreement must be revised or the United States will withdraw from it.
As such, the future of the agreement remains uncertain. Will it be scrapped by the US after three months or retained with revisions?
Trump has been quite firm in demanding revisions of what he describes as the “worst” accord in American history. The revisions he wants reportedly include permanent restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities and ballistic missile program, and inclusion of its military operations in the Middle East in the nuclear negotiations.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement, emphasizing that Teheran does not and will not accept any revision to the agreement and that Iran will not implement any measures outside of the agreement.
Iran is firm in its attitude for two reasons. First, Iran has met its obligations under the nuclear agreement, which has been supported by International Atomic Energy Agency reports. Even the Trump administration, reporting to Congress, has found it hard to pinpoint flaws with Iran’s implementation.
Second, the Iranian nuclear deal is a multilateral agreement concluded after tough negotiations between Iran and the US, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany, and endorsed by the UN Security Council. And only the US seeks its modification and has threatened to withdraw from it.
Trump is firm in his attitude also for two reasons. The first is the promise he made during his presidential campaign. Right from the beginning of his campaign, he criticized the Iran deal and threatened to withdraw from it if elected US president. The Iranian nuclear deal is former president Barack Obama’s diplomatic legacy. But since taking office, Trump has made several decisions to erase Obama’s legacies, including “Obamacare” healthcare reforms, and withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral trade agreement and the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Second, the Trump administration makes no secret of viewing Iran as its main adversary in the Middle East. Trump has strengthened strategic ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia, its two important allies in the region. These two countries are Iran’s strategic competitors and are unhappy with the Iranian nuclear deal.
But what the agreement needs most is protection and continued implementation. The US’ withdrawal will hurt not only Iran but also the US and its Middle East partners Saudi Arabia and Israel, and deal a heavy blow to the international nuclear nonproliferation regime.
In Iran, scrapping the deal could trigger another wave of anti-Americanism, which in turn could prompt Teheran to reactivate its uranium enrichment and other nuclear research and development activities, halt its nascent efforts to open up to the outside world, and further compromise its relations with the West.
For Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran restarting its nuclear research program will heighten their strategic misgivings and sense of insecurity, and stimulate them to do the same, thus triggering a new arms race and destabilizing the Middle East further.
For the US, unilaterally scrapping a multilateral agreement will seriously undermine its international reputation and soft power.
For international peace and security, the historic nuclear agreement is a win-win deal for all, a victory for multilateralism, pacifism and rationalism, and a precedent for resolving tough nuclear issues through negotiations. By unilaterally scrapping the agreement, Trump will turn years of global cooperation into dust.
At present, the five other countries involved in the agreement have emphasized they want to continue honoring the Iranian nuclear deal. The question of Iran developing ballistic missiles, raised by the US, has nothing to do with the nuclear issue and should not be brought in to complicate the situation. Instead, it should be addressed through negotiations in external mechanisms.
The author is a senior fellow at Charhar Institute. Courtesy: chinausfocus.com