OBSESSED with undoing the legacies of his predecessor, President Donald Trump is ending up in eroding American credibility beyond redemption. With yet another rash treaty reneging announcement, Trump has imperilled peace and shown the rest of the world that his country cannot be counted on to abide by international agreements. He is in such an indecent hurry that he does not care about the crippling voids he is leaving behind. His latest action of shredding the Iran nuclear deal has not only isolated the US but has also marginalised his own persona amongst his countrymen.
Trump’s announcement did not come as a surprise. Worrisome is the evidence put forward by him. It is based on the documents recently released by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu showing that Iran had attempted to develop a nuclear bomb in the previous decade, especially before 2003. Trump could not put forward any stunning evidence that Iran violated the 2015 deal. He only emphasised that Iran had lied in the past and could not be trusted. Such over simplifications could undo any international deal. Trump’s Defence Secretary and the UN mandated nuclear regulator International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) are of the view that Iran has not violated the 2015 deal. Leading officials of American military establishment think of the deal as “pretty robust.”. Even Israeli military thinks that the agreement was a fair bargain.
Iran’s reaction to the US move has largely been measured, barring burning of the US flag in Parliament. Rouhani has said, “his country will continue to honour the deal”, while the EU nations have stated the same. Trump’s impetuous decision has overwhelmingly been condemned by the world community. However, this has no worth, as Trump heads a team of warmongering pro-Israel hawks. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s initial reaction was: “This decision was an act of psychological warfare against Iran…I have instructed the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation to take the necessary measures for future actions so that, if necessary, we can resume industrial enrichment without limit.” Fair enough; now ball is in the court of other signatories of the deal, all of whom have pledged to continue with the deal. However, the question arises: if the US sanctions everyone doing business with Iran, how will the deal survive? From here, the issue takes an uncharted voyage. There aren’t many countries which could bear the brunt of comprehensive US sanctions.
Dissent and condemnation has poured in from all over the world except Israel and Saudi Aribia—the two strange bedfellows in their anti-Iran pursuits. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres commented: “I call on other JCPOA participants to abide fully by their respective commitments under the JCPOA and on all other [UN] member-states to support this agreement.” Pakistan’s response was mature and pertinent: “Pakistan believes that the JCPOA represents a very good example of a negotiated settlement of complex issues, through dialogue and diplomacy. Arbitrarily rescinding such agreements will undermine confidence in the value of dialogue and diplomacy in the conduct of international relations”.
Interestingly Europe whom the US has been taking as “granted for” ally is standing far apart on this issue: “Stay true to your commitments as we will stay true to ours and together with the rest of the international community, we will preserve this nuclear deal”, European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini commented. Individually, France, Germany and the UK have castigated the US decision and have pledged to “work collectively on a broader framework, covering nuclear activity, the post-2025 period, ballistic activity and stability in the Middle East…”, French President twittered. Russia indicated that it is “deeply disappointed”. Spokesman for President Erdogan commented: “The unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear deal is a decision that will cause instability and new conflicts.” Syria stated that it “strongly condemns US President’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran, which shows once again that the United States is not honouring its commitments and international agreements.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran.” And Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry quickly echoed the Israeli sentiment: “The Kingdom supports and welcomes the steps announced by the US President toward withdrawing from the nuclear deal … and reinstating economic sanctions against Iran.” Architect of the deal, former US President Barack Obama, assumed ownership and commented: “The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working … that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts… JCPOA has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. “Indeed, at a time when we are all rooting for diplomacy with North Korea to succeed, walking away from the JCPOA risks losing a deal that accomplishes — with Iran — the very outcome that we are pursuing with the North Koreans,” Obama added.
Trashing of deal would bring significant losses to the Iranian economy and once again expose its people to financial hardship. And there is a real chance that Iran and Israel’s ongoing confrontation in Syria may transform into war. Decision was timed to impact Iranian elections. Nuclear deal had eased out ruinous international sanctions in return for an Iranian promise to limit its nuclear activities and allow inspections by international inspectors. Should dejection arising out of American betrayal lead the Iranian response to resumption of its nuclear programme, it could trigger a chain of events in the Middle East. Overall, international nuclear non-proliferation regime is certainly in for an enduring beating. The Associated Press has aptly analysed “Just as Donald Trump reached one hand out to North Korea, he yanked the other back from Iran”.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.