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Trump's withdrawal from nuclear deal flouted international order

May 16,2018 - Last updated at May 16,2018

US President Donald Trump's unilateral decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran has flouted the international order, which relies on adherence to multilateral treaties and international law. By reinstituting sanctions on Iran, Trump has breached the treaty signed in 2015 by the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China. This treaty also received full backing from the European Union. Under this accord, Iran dismantled its nuclear programme in exchange for easing the punitive sanctions regime imposed by the US, its partners and the UN.

The accord effectively halted Iran's enrichment of uranium and imposed stringent monitoring measures to prevent Tehran from cheating, although Tehran has argued, since 2003, it has not conducted research into nuclear weapons. Throughout his election campaign and during his presidency, Trump claimed, falsely and ignorantly, that the nuclear accord was the "worst deal ever".

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which conducted 10 intrusive inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, has reported that Iran is in compliance with its obligations. No one, however, has carried out a close examination of US efforts to obstruct sanctions relief in violation of the accord since it came into effect in January 2016. As a result of Trump's May 8th declaration, Washington intends to reimpose tight restrictions on Iranian oil exports, banking and financial transfers, purchases of aircraft and spare parts, oil exploration contracts, trade and investment.

Trump's action should serve as a warning to the international community, particularly, Europe, that it is highly dangerous to grant one power the ability to exercise extraterritorial control over transactions, banks and foreign firms and governments. The US has successfully seized global financial power as its political influence has waned and its military forces have proven incapable of defeating antagonists.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has already warned US and European aircraft manufacturers not to sell planes and parts to IranAir, leaving Iranian civilians at risk of accidents while flying in planes which cannot be properly serviced and maintained. Trump claims he has withdrawn in order to improve the lot of Iran's 80 million people: this is just one more of Trump's flagrant lies.

The US gives non-US firms six months to pull out of contracts with Iran and forbids any new deals. Continuing to do business with Iran will attract US sanctions on non-US entities. This amounts to blackmail and intimidation by Trump from his bully pulpit.

France promptly condemned Trump's action. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian argued that the "extraterritoriality of [US] sanction measures is unacceptable. The Europeans should not have to pay for the [US] withdrawal from an agreement... to which they had contributed."  Europeans would put in place measures to protect their interests, he added. Germany took a similar view.

Le Drian also warned of political uncertainty caused by Trump's decision. Le Drian should, instead, have spoken about the certainty of regional conflict arising from Trump's policies. He has recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital and shifted the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city in spite of a 70-year old international policy of refusing to recognise the holy city as Israel's capital. He has dramatically cut funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, forcing the agency to reduce services to the victims of Israel's wars. He has appointed "lovers of Israel" and "chickenhawks" — men who never served in the military but are responsible for George W. Bush's war on Iraq — to key posts in the US government. And now, he has renounced the Iran nuclear treaty.

According to the Kuwaiti newspaper, Al Jarida, Trump has given Israel a green light to assassinate General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's elite Quds force, who has been providing advice and logistical support for Operations against Daesh in Syria and Iraq.

An informed source in Beirut told The Gulf Today that war could be expected on May 12th, the day Trump had originally announced he would announce his decision on the nuclear deal. Instead, he did this on the 8th. Israel tested Iran and Syria by launching a missile strike on a village in the portion of the Golan province held by Syria. In response, Israel claimed 20 shells were fired into the Israeli-occupied Golan. Israel said four were intercepted in flight and the rest fell short and blamed Iran.

Israel retorted by conducting multiple air strikes, allegedly, on Iranian bases, arms depots and militiamen in Syria as well as Syrian air defences and Syrian military bases. The Russians may have contained the fall-out from this exchange but may not be able to do so on other occasions.

These and earlier tit-for-tat incidents have not, so far, provoked outright conflict, but there is a serious concern that subsequent incidents could lead to a war Iran does not want but Israel has been planning to wage for years. Such a war would not be confined to Israel and Iran in Syria, but could draw in the US and the Gulf states and spill over Syria's borders into Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Israel.

It is significant that Israel initiated the exchange with the intention of obtaining a response in kind in order to provide a pretext to hit military facilities near Kiswah, located south of Damascus near the Hajar Al Aswad and Yarmouk districts, where the Syrian army and its allies have been waging war against remnants of Daesh. Israel has for several years provided aid and succor to Al Qaeda-offshoots in Syria — medical treatment, arms and money — although Daesh and Hay'at Tahrir Al Sham (formerly Jabhat Al Nusra) are branded "terrorist" organisations by the UN and most members of the international community, which have been battling Daesh in Iraq and Syria. Therefore, it is ironic that Trump should encourage Israel's efforts to protect and bolster the militant taqfiri enemies of the Arabs and the West.

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