Iran: New balance of power

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Rizwan Ghani

AS part of his election promise, Trump walked away from the Iran nuclear deal or JCOP. US was part of six plus Iran JCPOA. In a joint statement Germany, France and UK have stated that they are committed to the deal. On re-imposition of sanctions, France has said that US is not the economic policeman of the planet. France has voiced the worries of European countries whose companies are doing billions of dollars of business ($37bn airlines alone) with Iran after the deal in 2015. Europe has already started drafts to block US sanctions. US has given 90 to 180 days for foreign companies to wind down their businesses in Iran. The US National Security Advisor John Bolton has promised to be merciless with European companies however it could prove a big test for America’s global standing because Denis Chaibi, head of the Iranian taskforce at the EU’s external action service, said one of the options would be to restore “blocking regulations”, a system from 1990s ordering firms not to comply.
If European financial institutions- deeply intertwined with American system- are ready, a clear picture is going to emerge in coming weeks about the practicality of the Europe’s blocking regulations and helping European firms to continue doing business with Iran and ignore US economic sanctions. The EU foreign policy chief has promised to preserve the deal backed by the UN which has also supported for the continuation of the deal as five plus one after the departure of US. Trump’s case against Iran has been rejected by most UNSC members, the UN and the EU. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told the Agency’s 35-member Board of Governors in March that Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. So far Iran has got 12 clean chits on its commitments. There is a general consensus that Trump has moved beyond Iran’s nuclear program to appease his allies in ME including Israel sparking fears of war between Iran and Israel. It is also opined the plan of crippling economic sanctions is an effort towards regime change which few are ready to support at the global level after miserable failure in Libya and Iraq including refugee crisis in Europe, millions left internally displaced, hundreds of thousands living in abject poverty, without basic necessities and facing gross violations of human rights and dignity.
No one wants to see Iran added to the already ongoing military conflicts in the region including Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Palestine. Obama along with major Democrat leaders opposed Trump’s move to scrap the Iran deal and called it big mistake, strategic miscalculation and undermining US standing at global level (Pelosi). If Iran continues to adhere to the deal and current leadership manages to stay away from returning to nuclear enrichment program, it can play a pivotal role in creating a new balance of power at the global level which could ultimately deliver a check on over arching US role in the world and at the same time allow other power centers to create a system of checks and balances in the international politics and help make setups of the UN, the EU, SCO, more effective to enforce international obligations on countries including US, Israel, Russia and China.
Going by the JCPOA clause that no additional sanctions can be introduced in the Iran nuclear deal, the nuclear deal will stay unchanged. By promising to continue with the deal, P4 will not renegotiate the deal. Macron’s plan of broadening the sanctions will not get required support by the other members because Iran’s missile program was not part of the nuclear deal and no country, the UN and the EU will support total surrender of nation’s security especially when Trump’s Iran sanctions have been termed as new American Doctrine in the ME which could bring more death and destruction to the region. In a way, the EU is now at the center of Iran situation and if Beijing plays its role wisely, the balance of power can easily shift from the West to Asia. However, China is under pressure as Trump is trying to gain a stronger foothold in the Korean Peninsula right on the Chinese borders. With India in its camp, America could gain strategic advantage in the new emerging balance of power.
But if China, Russia and the EU analyse the situation from economic perspective, they need to stand with Iran, block US sanctions. Tehran should remain in the Nuclear Deal because it offers more chances of economic prosperity, security and peace. The economic cooperation and prosperity is increasing in Asia. Xi will also support peace in Asia as part of its Belt and Road program. Russia, Japan, India and the EU will also join for economic benefits. Finally, by walking away from the Iran nuclear deal, Trump has undermined the global role of America which was always important vis-a-vis other global players in terms of economy, trade and balance of power. The implementation of Trump’s policy will destroy Trump’s supporters countries in the long run, increase fuel prices, spread poverty and fan wars in the region. The world still needs America as a balancing global power if only Trump and his supporters realise it. Otherwise, Trump will further isolate America with dire economic, employment and security implications.
—The writer is senior political analyst based in Islamabad.

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