US and Iran back on a rocky path – Yasmeen Aftab Ali

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Image Source: CNN

US president Donald Trump has never offered, at any forum, a detailed public policy for writing off the Iran Nuclear Deal. If there is one, no one knows about it. Trump now aims to scrap the deal altogether by sending it to his fellow parliamentarians, asking them to virtually rewrite the conditions under which sanctions may be imposed upon Tehran.

The famous Iran Nuclear Deal between US, Iran, France, Russia, China, Germany and UK is a detailed agreement and a memorandum of understanding.  It is based on a simple foundation; Iran will limit her nuclear programme and till the time she does, the nations in the pact will not impose any sanctions on Iran. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) basically spells out that sanction will not be imposed so long Iran complies with the agreement. According to the agreement the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) holds complete and sole authority to determine whether or not Iran is complying with the agreed terms. The IAEA has, on numerous times, attested to Iran complying with the agreed terms.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) put in place in 2015, requires the President to publically certify that the technical requirements with the agreement are being complied with every 90 days. The expression used by Trump, stating his desire to decertify a deal that is working in line with the agreement is subjective.  [INARA requires me] to certify that the suspension of sanctions under the deal is ‘appropriate and proportionate,’ Trump said. “I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification. 

Not only Trump wants the deal decertified, he is touching upon points not a part of the deal.  Trump is also poised to nominate Iran’s security force Revolutionary Guard Corp as a terrorist organization. Reportedly Trump is giving encouragement to America’s allies to impose sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme, thus going against the terms agreed in the nuclear deal.

Trump’s ground of questioning the deal is without logic, “What is the purpose of a deal that at best only delays Iran’s nuclear capability for a short period of time? This, as president of the United States, is unacceptable,” Trump said in the Friday address. One thing predictable in international relations is that it’s unpredictable. Instead of basing a decision of today on a fear of tomorrow the decision of today should be based on confidence of an even better relationship between both nations and a friendlier Iran of tomorrow.

Stance of Countries in the Iran Nuclear Deal

Positions are already being taken by nations of the world on this crucial issue. Israel and Saudi Arabia have predictably supported Trump’s America. Israel had tried its utmost to stop the deal going through, going to the length of the Israeli President addressing a joint session of U.S Congress throwing his weight against the U.S lawmakers approving the deal. Saudi Arabia’s proxy war supporting its brand of Islam – Wahhabism – vis a vis a predominant Shi’ite Iran was bound to lend support to Trump.

China is already supporting the deal as an excellent example of resolving an issue through talks. Russia is on the same page with China. British Prime Minister Theresa May made a call to Netanyahu reaffirming UK’s commitment to the deal. “A statement released by her office said that May told Netanyahu that the U.K. “remains firmly committed to the deal and that we believe it is vitally important for regional security.”

Germany is concerned that decertification will cause North Korea to turn away from any accord based on lack of confidence as a result. France is concerned about regional instability that will be caused as a result of this step. The EU is making efforts to draw support of French, German, British and EU Ambassadors to save the deal.

Likely negative cascading effects of decertification

First, the refusal to decertify the deal will push Iran and North Korea way- and Trump already feels threatened by North Korea.

Second, by reneging on an international agreement, will the US not be projecting herself as an unreliable partner to enter into a deal with? A concern that Germany has already shown.

Third, there may be fallout between America and her allies in the deal, causing further geostrategic tensions.

Fourth, within White House and in the US many people do not agree with Trump’s view based more on personal dislike rather than any public policy. Secretary Defense James Mattis, who was testifying before Congress, was asked directly by Senator Angus King (I-ME) if he thought it was in the U.S. interest to remain in the deal, to which Mattis replied, “Yes, I do.”

Vali Nasr – Dean of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies – writes, “Refusing to confirm Iran’s compliance while laying out a broad case against Iran will, in effect, invite Congress to impose new sanctions. But if other signatories to the deal side with Iran in declaring the United States in violation and resist U.S. pressure to curtail their business dealings with Iran, all that “decertification” will open a rift between the United States and its European allies, Russia and China. On the other hand, if the United States wins over its allies, the deal will be dead — and everyone can go back to worrying about war with a nuclear-armed Iran.”

The Overlooked Impact on Afghanistan

A very serious angle here is Iran’s importance in seeking peace in Afghanistan. The element of lack of trust caused by this denial by Trump to nullify the deal will lead to duplicity and suspicion in dealing with the Afghan issue. Iran wields influence over western Afghanistan, especially in Herat, where it has created a security buffer.  It was Iran’s close ties with the Northern Alliance that supported US in overthrowing the Taliban way back in 2001. Central Asia and Southwest Asia including Turkey, Armenia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan along with The Persian Gulf and the Caucus share borders with Iran. Afghanistan has her second largest border with Iran – a geographical fact that must not be overlooked.

The decertifying of Iran nuclear deal will lead to stress and tension in the region with a spillover effect on creating peace in Afghanistan. Iran will not be very forthcoming to support US in the changed scenario. Iran, over the years, has gained strategic depth in Afghanistan. It also has the capability of providing serious impediments in the American operations in Afghanistan by using asymmetrical warfare. The question now arises:

Can US allies Trump or garner enough support to stop this mistake of historic proportions?

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Yasmeen

 

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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