By Mohamed Harees –
Donald Trump on 8th May pulled the US out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement which worked out an international nuclear deal with Iran, along with five other world powers –Russia, Germany, UK, France, and China , by lifting sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program. This is but another insane act of a series of Trump’s high-stakes “America First” policy, which led the US earlier to announce its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, come close to a trade war with China and pull out of an Asian-Pacific trade deal.
Trump’s animosity toward the JCPOA appears to reflect a narcissistic view that he can negotiate a better deal, as well as a desire to undo the chief foreign policy achievement of his predecessor. For although Trump has been criticized for lacking even a shred of cohesion in his decision making, there has been however one unifying theme over his first 15 months in office: torching the legacy of Barack Obama. But as analysts point out, the chances for such a renegotiation are slim given the Trump administration’s apparent aversion to direct talks with Iran and reluctance to provide new incentives for deeper Iranian concessions.
No doubt, such short sighted policy strokes raise the risk of conflict in the Middle East, upsetting European allies and casting uncertainty over global oil supplies. Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, warned: “By withdrawing from the JCPOA, Trump hastens the possibility of three disparate but similarly cataclysmic events: an Iranian war, an Iranian bomb, or the implosion of the Iranian regime.” “Iran looms large over major US national security concerns including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, cyber, energy security, terrorism, & obviously nuclear proliferation. The opportunities for direct conflict are numerous.” Former US president Barack Obama, whose administration negotiated the Iran deal, also warned Trump’s decision could have dire implications. “Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East.”
As Donald Trump announces his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) in US urged him in a memo not to base his decision on fabricated evidence. It said, ‘The evidence presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 30 alleging a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program shows blatant signs of fabrication. That evidence is linked to documents presented by the Bush Administration more a decade earlier as proof of a covert Iran nuclear weapons program. Those documents were clearly fabricated as well. We sent President Bush a similar warning about bogus intelligence — much of it fabricated by Israel —six weeks before the U.S./UK attack on Iraq, but Bush paid us no heed. This time, we hope you will take note before things spin even further out of control in the Middle East. In short, Israel’s “new” damaging documents on Iran were fabricated by the Israelis themselves. Two former Directors-General of the IAEA, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, have publicly expressed suspicion that the documents were fabricated. And forensic examination of the documents yielded multiple signs that they are fraudulent. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden noted, “Iran is further away from a weapon with this deal than they would be without it,” in part because of the intrusive verification measures in the JCPOA’.
The other signatories to the deal however remained fully committed while UN and EU called on the international community to preserve the Iran nuclear deal. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the remaining parties of the deal to abide by their commitments. As EU diplomat, Federica Mogherini, says, ” As we have always said, the nuclear deal is not a bilateral agreement and it is not in the hands of any single country to terminate it unilaterally…The EU will remain committed to the continued full and effective implementation of the nuclear deal.We fully trust the work, competence and autonomy of the International Atomic Energy Agency that has published 10 reports certifying that Iran has fully complied with its commitments. The lifting of nuclear-related sanctions is an essential part of the agreement. The EU has repeatedly stressed that the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions has a positive impact not only on trade and economic relations with Iran, but also mainly, [it has] crucial benefits for the Iranian people’.
What are the implications of this Trump psychopathy on both the US and the world? Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), says ‘Trump’s “reckless decision” puts the US on path to war with Iran. “Donald Trump has committed what will go down as one of the greatest acts of self-sabotage in America’s modern history. He has put the United States on a path towards war with Iran and may trigger a wider regional war and nuclear arms race’’. Further, as Financial Times’ chief political commentator Philip Stephens explains; ‘Some diplomats describe it as the biggest rupture in Trans-Atlantic relations since the end of the Cold War . The whole of Europe seems united on Trump’s decision. On the one side, you have the US with the support of Israel and Saudi Arabia(and perhaps Emiratis). On the other side, you have the rest of the world. That is not a good position for US to be in . That is not a good position either for the Western liberal democracies’. Thus, Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal – a move driven largely by domestic politics – will further isolate the US from its European allies and set in motion ripple effects that could lead to wider proliferation of nuclear weapons and regional tensions in the Middle East. As Aaron David Miller, a Middle East analyst at the Wilson Center, a think-tank in Washington, told Al Jazeera, ‘The reality is that for reasons that have nothing to do with foreign policy, the president just took a highly flawed, but still functional accord, and scrapped it without an alternative’
According to nuclear non-proliferation experts , two possible scenarios developing from here. One is that Europe, China and Russia work with Iran to try to preserve the agreement by sustaining economic relations in the face of US sanctions pressure. The alternative, weapons control experts fear, is that Iran’s leadership is not able to remain in the deal and begins to renew its nuclear programme. According to Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a non-partisan group in Washington that advocates for nuclear weapons reductions, “Trump believes the fantasy that has been told to him by his National Security Adviser John Bolton and new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that by trying to re-impose sanctions, we can force the Europeans to work with us to renegotiate a completely new agreement with the Iranians that’s better for us and worse for the Iranians. That’s just fantastical thinking.”
Under the financial sanctions, European companies will have 90 to 180 days to wind down their operations in Iran, or they will run afoul of the American banking system. The sanctions on oil will require European and Asian countries to reduce their imports from Iran. However, with Trump in the White House, the US government may not have the political and economic leverage with European allies and competitors China and Russia that would be required to impose unilateral sanctions as Obama did from 2010 to 2015 to bring Iran to the negotiating table. The Europeans had already agreed to a significant compromise: to re-impose sanctions if there were a determination that the Iranians were within 12 months of producing a nuclear weapon. But officials said that still did not satisfy Mr. Trump, and the Europeans were not willing to go any further. As Kim Wallace, managing director for Eurasia Group and former Obama Treasury Department official says, “The Europeans, the Asians, a lot of people, are really tired of US sanctions policy just across the board. The last seven, eight years, it’s been a lot of US sanctions”. As Iran’s Foreign Minister quipped,’ US is addicted to sanctions’. Another negative consequences of no deal could go beyond proliferation and the likelihood that Saudi Arabia and other regional powers would also seek dual-use nuclear technology.
Foreign policy experts have also warned for months that if Trump backs out of the Iran deal, it will make it harder to convince North Korea that the U.S. will live up to any commitments brokered as part of an agreement to remove nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula. For Trump to pull out of a deal that by all accounts, Iran is complying with, it could make North Korea wary of entering into a similar deal with the United States. But Trump in his usual psychopathic style of decision making believes that ditching the Iran deal, shows North Korea’s Kim that US will only do any deal on its’ own terms.
Be it as it may, the premediated American dismantling of an agreement that was the product of more than a decade of intense diplomacy and economic pressure marks a staggeringly counterproductive step. Thus John Kerry, former US Secretary of State under Obama stated, ‘No rhetoric is required. The facts speak for themselves. Instead of building on unprecedented non-proliferation verification measures, this decision risks throwing them away and dragging the world back to the brink we faced a few years ago.” . As Richard Nephew, Ilan Goldenberg writes in an article in Foreign Policy.com (09/05/2018) ‘Even by the Trump administration’s admission, Iran has been faithfully implementing the nuclear deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will almost certainly confirm this fact by the end of May, when it issues its next quarterly report on Iran. Thus, the nuclear crisis to come will not be Iran’s fault, but rather that of the Trump administration and those who prodded it to renounce the one mechanism in the past 35 years that has reliably constrained Iran’s nuclear program…. Getting a “better deal” would require international unity to apply more pressure. But the Trump administration has already poisoned the well, as every key international partner in Europe and Asia opposes walking away from the agreement. And without international support, the United States will be left to the brute economic force strategy that failed in the 1990s’. Reminds of what Bush did with his WMD gimmick before the Iraqi war! Typical US adventurism!
Further, as Jin Liangxiang, Senior Research Fellow, Shanghai Institute of Int’l Studies in an article in ‘China-US Focus’, rightly points out, ‘ Trump’s withdrawal will undermine the confidence and appetite of other potential nuclear proliferators to resolve similar issues via negotiation. Negotiation is always the best way to resolve the non-proliferation issue. The negotiated solution to the Iran nuclear issue was even once regarded as a good example of solving the problem of nuclear proliferation. If the agreement can be so easily broken, why should people negotiate?. Besides, formal withdrawal will enhance the image of the U.S. as a rule-breaker amongst the international community. Though always criticizing other nations, the U.S. is the one that most frequently breaks international rules. The leaders of any country have the responsibility to implement the commitments made by their predecessors. But the Trump administration reneges on them as easily as tearing a piece of paper’.
This psychopathic decision announcement thus didn’t just kick off a crisis with Iran.It started a wider international crisis with unclear ramifications for the world. A world worse off thanks to Trump.