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If Trump sticks to some campaign pledges

Nov 30,2016 - Last updated at Nov 30,2016

Since his triumph in the US presidential election, Donald Trump has disavowed some of the pledges he made during the campaign.

He said he would not prosecute his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for her ill-advised use of a private, rather than government, e-mail server and could rethink, rather than scrap, US commitments to climate change/global warming deals.

Instead of cancelling Obamacare — the health plan that has offered coverage for millions of uninsured citizens — he said he will preserve at least two provisions and replace the rest with something better.

On these and other verbal commitments he said: “Everything is negotiable,” warning that he must not be held to campaign promises.

During the race, he also declared he would “rip up” the deal, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), providing for the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of punitive economic sanctions on that country. 

Trump’s appointment of two hawks — Michael Flynn as national security adviser and Michael Pompeo as Central Intelligence Agency director — suggests he might just go ahead with this promise.

However, their anti-Iranian fervour could be cooled by international and regional realities.

On the international front, the US was neither the sole negotiator nor the only signatory of JCPOA. 

There are five other powers involved: Britain, France, Russia and China — also permanent members of the UN Security Council — plus Germany.

The UN and European Union are behind the deal. Any attempt by Trump to impose his will on the rest would be met with resistance, particularly since he is openly distrusted and disliked by some leaders of the other signatory countries.

They can argue the JCPOA is a success which has dismantled Iran’s nuclear programme to the point it is no longer possible for Tehran to build nuclear weapons if it decides to do so.

The JCPOA has also eased international sanctions on Iran, allowing the country to export oil, reopen trade relations with a variety of countries and strive for economic rehabilitation at global level.

The full lifting of sanctions has been obstructed by Washington, which creates major obstacles in the way of business and investment opportunities for other countries by maintaining a licensing system for items with US components, prohibiting US banks from dealings with Iran, and restricting the use of dollars.

By sticking to the letter of the JCPOA, rather than abiding by its spirit, the US has created frustration both in Iran and in actual and potential trading and investment partners. 

This could deepen if the Trump administration seeks to limit the easing of sanctions.

Washington could, for example, block the sale of civilian aircraft to Iran, in violation of the JCPOA. 

Non-US and US businesses, and European and Asian governments seeking closer trade ties with Iran are likely to resist any tightening of sanctions by evading US controls, weakening the use of sanctions as an international tool to curb the actions of alleged “renegade” governments.

Toughening sanctions could also lead to the election of a hardline president in Iran’s election, due next year, or prompt Tehran to reinstate portions of its nuclear programme that have been shut down.

In time, this could reverse the JCPOA altogether and create a bitter backlash against the US and the Trump administration.

On the regional front, Iran could respond by challenging US efforts to eliminate Daesh, to which the Trump has given top priority.

In Iraq, the US has been in uneasy partnership with Tehran since the 2003 invasion and occupation of that country, and the installation in Baghdad of a pro-Iranian Shiite fundamentalist regime.

Iran not only is the main power in the centre but also exerts control over powerful Shiite militias that are involved in the campaign to defeat and destroy Daesh, which seized control of strategic territory in Sunni majority provinces.

Without these militias — now given legal status by the Iraqi parliament — the US and Iranian-sponsored offensive to oust Daesh from Mosul, once Iraq’s second city, would not be possible.

In Syria, Iran can undermine the US-backed offensive to defeat Daesh in its declared capital, Raqqa, in north central Syria.

Iran has deployed several thousand paramilitaries in Syria in the fight to preserve the secular Baathist government in Damascus, but could pair these forces with Syrian army units with the aim of giving the government a role in the recapture of Raqqa.

The US and its allies do not want Raqqa to return to the government fold, but have not defined who would rule the city if and when Daesh has been defeated and expelled.

US-backed paramilitaries involved in the Raqqa campaign, the Syrian Democratic Forces, are mainly Kurdish, making it difficult for them to occupy and administer a mainly Arab city, particularly since Kurdish fighters are accused of cleansing Arabs from other areas they have seized from Daesh.

In Yemen, Iran can grant serious assistance to the tribal rebels fighting the Saudi-sponsored government.

So far, Tehran has not gone much beyond verbal and token materiel aid, but it could become more intimately involved in this conflict.

Washington has extended logistical support to the Saudis, who purchased $1.29 billion worth of smart bombs from the US for use in Yemen.

US aid to the Saudis has made Washington a party to the killing of 10,000 Yemenis, more than half civilians, the majority slain by Saudi air strikes.

This campaign is straining Riyadh’s financial resources at a time revenues are low from oil exports as the price of crude is low.

 

Finally, Iran can stir up trouble among restive Shiite communities in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, all three key US allies, as well as in Afghanistan where the US is also fighting a 15-year-old war against the Taliban.

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