Trump missing bigger picture on Iran – Yasmeen Aftab Ali

National Security Adviser John Bolton is the key person seemingly to support a regime-change in Iran. “Bolton was part of the powerful neoconservative faction of national security officials in the George W Bush administration that had a plan for supporting regime change in Iran, not much different from the one Bolton is reportedly pushing now.” (Gareth Porter: independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. Author: Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.)

“It was Lubrani who first advanced the argument that about a third of the total Iranian population was ethnic minorities, and that promoting their anti-Tehran activities could help to destabilise the government. Those groups have carried out terrorist bombings and other armed actions in various parts of Iran over the years, and it is well documented that Israel was supporting and advising the Baloch extremist organisation Jundallah on such operations. But the Israelis have used MEK mainly to put out disinformation on Iran’s nuclear programme.

The policy paper Bolton is reportedly pushing states explicitly that the regime change policy should include the use of military force against Iran if necessary. That was the premise of the Cheney-Bolton plan for regime change in Iran, as former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Middle East adviser, David Wurmser, later revealed. And it is the game that Bolton, the enthusiast for bombing Iran, is apparently still playing.” (Quoting from Porter’s latest piece 18 May 2018, Middle East Eye)

European Union is fighting to keep the deal alive. Iran has asked for guarantees from the EU without which the deal becomes redundant. Example of US pulling out of deal of TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) between US, Canada, Japan and others has not killed the Pact and is a precedent to deals continuing despite unilateral decision of US to renege upon its word.

Imposing sanctions yet again on Iran however puts a different colour on the given situation as opposed to other deals. China and Russia are unlikely to impose new sanctions on Iran. Germany, UK and France are steadfast in remaining committed to the deal. Systems, individuals and countries dealing with Iran financially will be targeted. Explicit provisions will have to be in place by the US – merely stating sanctions will be placed and pulling out of the deal will not have the prohibitive impact.

The spilt between nations on US walking out of the Iran Nuclear Deal was clear from the moment it happened. China will continue its oil imports from Iran as per a Reuters report, as they assess the impact of new sanctions. The United Commission is in process of activating new laws banning European courts and companies from complying with US sanctions against Iran. The statute of blocking is a powerful medium to salvage the deal from going under.

The clause of “blocking statute” was introduced in 1996 to avoid US sanctions on Cuba. Brennan however argues that this statute is outdated. “The 1996 law was used to defend European businesses from US penalties for dealing with Cuba. But the US Congress has since passed new laws that make the EU statute outdated, such as threats to cut off companies’ access to the US banking system,” (Al Jazeera 17 May 2018)

Many European companies have already stopped doing business with Iran upon US pulling out of the deal. There is news of Total withdrawing business with Iran — China has announced Chinese state-owned oil company CNPC was ready to replace Total if this happens. Russia has stepped in to help Iran negate the fallout impact because of Trump’s decision by signing an interim trade deal with Iran that lowers the tariffs on hundreds of goods. The interim trade deal is between the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union trade bloc and Iran.

Trump had promised in his campaign to get US out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and has done just that. Around the first week of November 2018, sanctions on Iran are expected to be imposed in full and this is the exact time for commercial organisations to pull out from doing business with Iran. Will businesses continue working with Iran after the deadline and risk negative cascading effects themselves? What will be Trump’s reaction if Iran manages to bypass somehow the agreement clauses leading to deployed centrifuges; quantity and variety both and increasing stockpiles of enriched uranium? This question raises its head in both situations i.e. if the deal is salvaged and if the deal is not salvaged. In latter case, US may yet again take a legally wrongful stance of “self-defence” as it did in case of Syria leading to military action with proposed regime change.

In taking the decision to exit, Trump as usual missed the bigger picture. He is set to derail the Afghanistan strategy that aims to help strengthen the Afghan economy. India has sunk in a phenomenal amount of funds to develop the Chabahar Port. The new development is making financial institutions wary of dealing in this project. “At least three contracts to build infrastructure at the port now have been delayed, with two Chinese companies and a Finnish group left hanging while bankers seek clarity from Washington before approving guarantees, a person close to the project said.” (Reuters May 20, 2018)

Many analysts state that it is redundant for Iran to stay in the deal with the exit of US. Exit made to draw a curtain on Iran’s regional ambitions. The question as raised by The Guardian is; “The EU is faced with the question of how it might protect its companies from possible US sanctions. It is feared that, should EU companies stop business with Iran, the regime could conclude there is no longer any benefit to remaining in the deal, which is designed to limit the achievement of its nuclear ambitions.” (May 8, 2018)

It is crucial to understand that continuation of all other partners in the Iran Nuclear Deal makes nuclear proliferation less likely and a ground war unlikely.

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: and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

The article originally appeared in Pakistan Today

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