Terming that “the Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States ever entered into”, US President Donald Trump on October 13 announced that he was formally ‘decertifying’ the nuclear deal with Iran.
Dwelling on the reasons that drove this decision, Trump pointed out that Iran had committed several violations of the deal and was receiving disproportionate relief from international sanctions for the concessions. “I’m tired of being taken advantage of as a nation.”
But the ‘decertifying’ does not mean an automatic withdrawal from the deal. It just kickstarts the process. Congress now has 60 days to snap back sanctions, keep the status quo or, amend or replace the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.
Soon after Trump’s announcement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hit back. “We have always been determined, and today we are more determined. We will double our efforts from now on.”
Trump’s mentioning ‘Arabian Gulf’ to refer to the Persian Gulf also irked Iran since Iranians embrace their country’s long history as the Persian Empire.
“Everyone knew Trump’s friendship was for sale to the highest bidder. We now know that his geography is, too,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was more scathing on Trump calling him “mentally retarded” while warning that if the US scuttles the deal, “we will shred it into pieces.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron urged Trump to consider the possible consequences for the West’s security.
Russia, a close ally of Iran, too had warned the US on going ahead with it. President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, who spoke ahead of Trump’s address, said that any move to spike the deal “would undoubtedly hurt the atmosphere of predictability, security, stability and non-proliferation in the entire world.”
While Saudi Arabia says it supports the nuclear deal, it has accused Iran of exploiting the economic benefits of sanctions being lifted “to continue destabilising the region, especially through its ballistic missile development programme and its support for terrorism in the region.” Saudi Arabia and Iran back opposing groups in Lebanon, Bahrain and Iraq.
Hit for EU
The EU leaders call the 2015 deal a pillar of efforts to reduce the global nuclear threat. Some fear that walking away from the deal could compromise chances of encouraging North Korea to negotiate on its nuclear programme.
Since the nuclear accord, European aviation consortium Airbus has signed billions of dollars in sales agreements with Iran. France’s Total SA and state-run China National Petroleum Corporation signed a $5-billion agreement with Iran to develop the country’s massive offshore natural gas field. And French automobile manufacturer Groupe Renault signed a $778 million deal.
“The European governments have underlined the nuclear deal’s issue and condemned the US president’s remarks,” said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on his website.
Khamenei’s comments show the supreme leader’s hope that he can leverage European business interests into protecting the nuclear deal. He wants to ensure that Iran continues to have access to the international market for its crude oil as part of efforts to revive its stagnant economy.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has certified eight times that Iran was living up to its commitments. IAEA’s Yukiya Amano stated that they “didn’t have enough time yet to observe the attitude of Iran. Yet I can tell you the Iranians are very careful and we continue our controls and inspections without any problem.”
More to it
Writing in The Conversation, Nancy Gallagher, University of Maryland, points out that the decertification may be meant to increase US leverage and get more out of the nuclear deal.
Analysts also suggest what Trump really wants is to provoke a regime change in Iran by killing the deal. John Bolton, a neoconservative from the George W Bush administration, has broadly suggested that the death of this deal will help the people of Iran get a government that is peace-loving and democratic.
If the scrapping of the deal is approved by Congress, the first step would be imposing tough sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.