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Violating the letter and spirit of Iran nuclear deal

Jan 17,2018 - Last updated at Jan 17,2018

Taking to his bully pulpit, Donald Trump has, once again, grabbed global headlines by demanding Europe’s acceptance by May 12 of a US-drafted adjunct agreement to the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. Iran has angrily rejected any such addition. This is a preemptory demand from a man who has little credibility abroad and is seen as undiplomatic, to say the least, and insulting by leaders with experience and savoir faire. Britain, France, Germany and the European Union have said the nuclear agreement, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is working and should stand on its merits. Although not included in his remarks, China and Russia have dismissed Trump’s diktat.

Iran has, so far, met its commitment to dismantle its nuclear programme while punitive international sanctions have been lifted on Iran’s oil, banking and business sectors boosting oil exports, enabling the Iranian economy to grow from minus five to plus six per cent, and bringing down inflation to nine per cent.  

The US, however, even under President Barack Obama, violated the spirit and letter of the agreement by using its clout in global financial affairs to discourage foreign goverments, banks, institutions, and commercial enterprises from investing in Iran.  These actions breach paragraph 29 of the JCPOA which requires “parties to refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran”. 

Consequently, Iranian expectations of an early popular dividend from sanctions relief did not materialise and impoverished Iranians protested in the provinces, putting the government under severe pressure to lower prices of food and fuel. Of course, Trump attempted to exploit the protests by calling for Iran to be sanctioned for cracking down and by imposing fresh sanctions on 14 Iranian entities and individuals, including the chief justice.

While Obama permitted breaches to happen due to pressures from anti-JCPOA figures in Congress and the powerful US Israel lobby, Trump is committed to use all means possible — fair and foul — to scupper the deal. He claims he is honouring a campaign promise although opinion polls show a solid majority of US citizens back the JCPOA.  In reality, Trump seeks to take down another major achievement in Obama’s legacy.   

This is a very dangerous route to take in this region, roiled by multiple conflicts and discontents. But Trump is too self-focused, ignorant and erratic to care or digest the implications of his decrees. This is true of his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, his tweet saying this has taken the issue of the holy city “off the table” although its status is meant to be negotiated, and his threat to cut funding for UNRWA, the UN agency providing food and essential services to 5 million Palestinian refugees. 

Returning to the JCPOA, the other signatories of the deal — France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China  and the European Union, which helped broker the accord — have all stood by it and criticised Trump’s stand.  They rightly make the point that he is using his administration’s continuing commitment to the deal to blackmail other signatories into making demands of Iran on issues outside the JCPOA. These include halting its ballistic missile programme, its intervention in Syria and Iraq and human rights violations. 

Iran has flatly refused to cease and desist.  First, Tehran believes it requires ballistic missiles — without nuclear warheads — to deter attack and defend itself. Iran is well aware that possessing delivery systems armed with nuclear weapons would be a more effective deterrent than missiles armed with conventional bombs. Nevertheless its has given up the nuclear option for the foreseeable future in the knowledge that hawks in the US and its ally Israel are keen to attack Iran with the aim of effecting regime change.

Trump’s demand to curb Iran’s ballistic missiles is also dangerous as it comes at a time the US is selling billions of dollars worth of weaponry of all types to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Tilting the balance of advantage in their favour could be highly destabilising, particularly during a period of fierce rivalry between Tehran and Riyadh.

Second, Tehran argues its deployment of Iranian-trained militiamen in both Syria and Iraq has enabled these countries to counter Daesh and Al Qaeda.  In the anti-takfiri campaigns, pro-Iranian fighters have been on the same side as US surrogates.

Finally, Iran is not likely to bend to Washington’s demands on human rights as long as the US domestic record on this issue is poor, getting worse under Trump, and the US does not press other countries in the region to deal with egregious human rights abuses.

Trump is strongly influenced by neoconservatives who promoted the disastrous 2003 US war on Iraq, their allies in the powerful pro-Israel lobby, influential pro-Israel donors to election campaigns, his good friend Israeli Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, an investor in illegal Israeli colonisation activity in the West Bank.

Trump does not take into account that the JCPOA serves US and global interests by ensuring Iran does not have the means to quickly develop nuclear weapons (which Tehran has renounced), preventing a regional nuclear arms race, and allowing Iran to emerge fully from isolation and reengage with the international community, strengthening the moderate camp led by President Hassan Rouhani.

A former negotiator of the JCPOA, Robert Malley observed: “Trump appears to have presented the [Europeans] with a false choice: either kill the deal with me, or I’ll kill it alone.”  Europeans and others are already antagonised by Trump’s unilaterally undermining international agreements.  He has decided to pull the US out of the Paris climate change accord and withdrawn from multilateral trade instruments. Other world leaders have no idea what he will do next. This is very destabilising for a region that is seriously destabilised and trapped in devastating proxy wars.     

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Comments

IF THERE IS UNITY AMONG THE COUNTRIES IN THE ARAB WORLD, BOTH THE SPIRIT AND THE LETTER OF ALL LAWS WILL BE THE SAME AS EVERY OTHER NATIONS. DONT BLAME THE UNITED STATES BECAUSE WE WILL NOT CHANGE THE RULES IF THERE ARE NO LEADERS IN THE ARAB WORLD THAT IS SUPPORTING AND BUYING INTO IT. DON BLAME THE MASSENGER BUT THE STORY BEHIND THE STORIES.

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