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Experts: Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from nuclear deal with Iran devoid of logic

23:51 | 23.05.2018 | Analytic

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23 May 2018. PenzaNews. Tehran intends to seek from the European states clear guarantees of compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after Washington’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal, said Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran Supreme Leader's Senior Adviser for international affairs, according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

Experts: Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from nuclear deal with Iran devoid of logic

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“There should be clear European guarantees in order not to turn the deal, which limits Tehran’s nuclear developments in exchange for lifting sanctions of the United Nations Security Council and unilateral restrictions introduced by the United States and the European Union, into a unilateral agreement,” he said.

“Certain EU members announce their commitment to the nuclear deal and prospects of enhancing economic cooperation with Iran, while others [European countries] say that there is no need to stand against the US. […] This contraction cannot but arouse suspicion,” Ali Akbar Velayati added.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has passed the first package of measures to shield EU firms in Iran from Washington sanctions, activating the “blocking statute.” It will forbid EU companies from complying with the extraterritorial effects of the American sanctions, allow companies to recover damages arising from such sanctions from the person causing them, and nullify any foreign court judgments based on US sanctions.

In addition, the European Commission intends to remove obstacles for the European Investment Bank (EIB) to decide under the EU budget guarantee to finance activities outside the European Union, in Iran, and continue and strengthen the ongoing sectoral cooperation with Iran.

Analyzing the current situation, Greg Thielmann, Board Member of the Arms Control Association and former office director in the State Department's intelligence bureau, INR, called Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal “one of the worst US foreign policy blunders in recent decades.”

“The 2015 agreement was the final result of cooperative efforts by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany, involving sustained economic and political pressure on Iran and the skillful diplomacy of negotiators from these six countries, the European Union, and Iran. The JCPOA properly focused on the international community's highest priority goal regarding Iran, insuring that the country's nuclear program would not be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The JCPOA successfully blocked all paths to producing such material for an extended period of time and secured enhanced verification measures regarding Iran's nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments in perpetuity,” the expert told PenzaNews.

In his opinion, Trump's decision to unilaterally withdraw from the JCPOA was not logical, because he had no realistic plan for improving on the terms of the agreement that he had found unsatisfactory.

“Withdrawing unilaterally would worsen the security of the United States and its allies. The US intelligence community had repeatedly found Iran to be in compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA. His own Secretary of Defense, many Republican members of Congress, the US business community, and US allies in Europe opposed the withdrawal. Trump, who has a shallow understanding of the terms of the JCPOA, appears to have a powerful emotional antipathy to Iran's leadership and a strong resistance to making any compromises with Tehran. Most importantly, Trump's decision reflects his desire to undo the most significant accomplishments of his predecessor, President Barack Obama,” former US State Department employee said.

The consequences of Trump's decision will be entirely negative for the United States, he believes.

“Any political commitments made in the future by the US Government will be less credible. Iran will be more likely to disregard terms of the agreement and to acquire capabilities, which draw it closer to being able to produce nuclear weapons. It is likely to strengthen the influence of hardliners in Tehran who are hostile to greater interaction with the West and more inclined to spread Iranian influence in the Middle East through violent acts,” said Greg Thielmann, adding that Iran will need to avoid the temptation to reciprocate Washington's bad faith and instead demonstrate a determination to reap the political benefits it can get if it continues to adhere to the JCPOA.

Meanwhile, Pal Steigan, Norwegian politician, publisher, writer, independent entrepreneur in the field of culture and information technology, noted that the decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal “is very much about the fight to maintain US hegemony” or “may be a preparation for a larger war”.

“By breaking the Iranian deal Trump is obviously following the Israel war monger agenda of Benjamin Netanyahu and the neocons in his own cabinet, like John Bolton, that has been lobbying for war with Iran for a long time. But this is also a part of his America First agenda,” the politician said.

In his opinion, Donald Trump wants to sabotage the China–Russia–Iran triangle and at the same time both discipline and punish his own “allies” in Europe.

“By introducing the sanctions Trump is hitting against Airbus [European multinational corporation that designs, manufactures and sells civil and military aeronautical products worldwide] on behalf of its competitor Boeing [American multinational corporation that designs, manufactures, and sells airplanes, rotorcraft, rockets, and satellites] and against [French oil and gas company] Total on behalf of US oil industry. By treating his European vassals like mud he tells them who is the boss and [demonstrates them] the length of their leash,” Pal Steigan explained.

The only way the remains of the deal can be saved is if the European guarantors stand up for it, he believes.

“Iran wants them to do so and has pledged to remain loyal to the deal if they do. If not, Iran will feel free to restart the nuclear program and you will have a full scale nuclear arms’ race in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia as an obvious participant,” the Norwegian analyst stressed.

In turn, Tytti Erasto, Researcher on nuclear weapon issues, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said that Donald Trump’s decision seems to be driven primarily by his short-sighted quest to fulfill a campaign promise to tear apart the Iran nuclear deal.

At the same time, in her opinion, this decision is in line with the traditional US foreign policy approach towards Iran that is based on two misconceptions the first of which is that regime change could solve all problems with Iran.

“US withdrawal from the JCPOA risks recreating the nuclear crisis with Iran, which promotes John Bolton’s agenda of creating a situation in which war against Iran would become more justifiable. […] Second, there is a belief in the United States that if pressure on Iran can be reinstated and increased, the US can get an even better deal from Iran,” the analyst explained.

From her point of view, Iran could also stop implementing the JCPOA, which would mean removal of restrictions on its uranium enrichment activities.

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“This would not mean Iran would start developing a nuclear weapon. However, Israel would be arguing that this is the case, and likely fall back to the previous policy of threatening Iran with pre-emptive military strikes. While the Obama administration sought to restrain Israel, the Trump administration might not. The worst-case result would thus be a new devastating war in the Middle East,” Tytti Erasto said.

According to her, the EU’s promise to try to preserve the deal is of utmost importance for the Iranian authorities and the country's image in the international arena.

“Although it will not be able to prevent all damage resulting from extraterritorial sanctions, a genuine attempt to do so can help to minimize the damage and is also symbolically important in a situation where the Iranian leadership is under increasing domestic pressure to respond to US actions. The best-case scenario is that EU measures can help justify Iran’s continued implementation of the deal — despite decreasing economic benefits — and that a precarious balance can be maintained at least until next US elections,” the expert noted.

Meanwhile, Joe Brazda, Research Associate, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, drew attention to the fact that the American president has repeatedly demonstrated his own incompetence and misunderstanding of the details of the deal concluded with Iran.

“On numerous occasions he has claimed it is the worst and most once-sided transactions ever entered into by the United States. While Trump has insisted the deal is terrible for America, evidence or substantive reasoning as to how he came to this conclusion has been lacking,” the analyst said.

He also reminded that Donald Trump, who called Iran the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, has complained the JCPOA does not address its ballistic missile program.

“It defies logic to think it is a reasonable approach to violate an agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon because there exist additional security issues that need to be addressed,” Joe Brazda stressed.

In his opinion, it would seem to make more sense to maintain restraints on a potential WMD program, and a potential arms race in the Middle East, while negotiating additional agreements to curb ballistic missile and terrorism threats.

“Violating the terms of the JCPOA places the international community and the Middle East at an unnecessary security risk. With no long-term alternative, a dubious basis for, and wildly divergent statements to justify the violation, it would be very difficult to identify the logic or reasoning behind such a momentous decision other than Trump’s consistent practice of eroding Obama era policies,” Joe Brazda said.

According to him, the immediate consequence of Trump’s violation of the JCPOA is that US credibility as a negotiating partner is now questionable.

“It will be interesting to see how Donald Trump and Secretary of State [Mike] Pompeo convince Kim Jong-un to accept a deal that includes US assistance to the DPRK economy in return for complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament when Trump has proven he is willing to violate an identical deal with Iran,” the expert noted.

He also reminded that the partners in the JCPOA have demonstrated they do not stand behind Trump’s decision to violate the deal and will do whatever is necessary to continue their obligations to keep the deal active.

“Donald Trump’s violation has therefore succeeded in driving a wedge between the US and its closest allies. Conversely, the Iranians are now viewed as the responsible negotiating party while benefiting from trade agreements their partners are not willing to abandon. The US will most likely attempt to coerce states to comply with unilateral sanctions by applying economic and political pressure. Should this prove to be successful, the Iranians would be within their rights to abrogate their end of the JCPOA and return to an enrichment program that can be developed into an industrial level enterprise without the benefit of the intrusive international verification regime in place with the deal,” the analyst suggested, adding that this would lead to an arms race in the Middle East and the escalation of tension in the region.

“The most optimistic outlook for the JCPOA at this point is for the partners to outlast the Trump administration and hope for a reasonable successor after the 2020 US election,” Joe Brazda concluded.

US President Donald Trump announced May 8 that Washington quit the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which curbed Tehran’s nuclear activity in exchange for lifting the UN Security Council’s sanctions and unilateral restrictions introduced by the US and the EU.

He vowed not only to reinstate the previous sanctions but introduce new restrictions against Iran. At the same time, Trump said the US is ready to sign a new deal with Tehran.

This step of the American leader was sharply disapproved by the international community.

Great Britain, Germany and France called other parties to the JCPOA to stay committed to their liabilities under it. Iran, in turn, confirmed its readiness to further comply with the provisions of the JCPOA.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the US withdrawal from the deal a violation of the UN Security Council resolution and stressed that Moscow would seek to keep the agreement in force, despite US plans to resume the sanctions regime against Iran.

The nuclear deal with Tehran was considered one of the main diplomatic achievements of former US President Barack Obama.

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