Wednesday, 15 January, 2020

Trump faces battle to undo Iran Nuclear Deal

By Jay Solomon, WSJ

Donald Trump as president will be positioned to swiftly pull the U.S. out of the Obama administration’s landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, as he suggested during his campaign.

A much harder task for Mr. Trump, however, is to convince other global powers to join him and dismantle a deal that President  Barack Obama says has diminished the threat of another war in the Mideast and opened a path for reduced tensions in the region.

During his campaign, Mr. Trump said the Obama administration negotiated badly. He alternately said he would scrap the deal and that he would renegotiate its terms. “My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” he told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March.

Tehran has been found to have briefly violated its pledges twice since the deal was reached in mid-2015, according to U.S. and European officials. Yet international commitment to the agreement remains strong, and the parties who negotiated it—China, Russia, France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.—have pledged to promote it.

European Union foreign ministers are set to reiterate on Monday their strong support for the full implementation of the accord.

The Iran deal isn’t a treaty, wasn’t formally signed, and wasn’t ratified by the U.S. Congress. It was approved by the United Nations Security Council, but not under procedures that obligate member states to observe its terms under threat of penalty.

Any partner—including Iran—could summarily cease to stick to the agreement, which resulted in Tehran scaling back its nuclear capabilities in return for the lifting of most international sanctions.

“The agreement is valid only as long as all parties uphold it,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday.

Many of the deal’s terms already have gone into effect. As part of the agreement, Iran has reaped billions of dollars in repayments of money held up by the West during years of sanctions, and has resumed trade with other countries in transportation, aviation and energy. The benefits it already has garnered couldn’t be pulled back, diplomats and experts have said.

Tehran, in return, already has shipped out most of its stockpile of enriched uranium and mothballed thousands of centrifuge machines.

Sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program already have been lifted, although world powers have said they could quickly reimpose punitive measures.

However, the diplomats and experts also have questioned whether European and Asian countries would be willing to return to a strict sanctions regime, even if the U.S. decided to back out of the agreement and ratchet up new sanctions.

The impact of a unilateral U.S. pullout could be limited, if other powers continue to build partnerships with Iran. Iranian officials, seeking to make the most of sanctions relief, have sought in particular to maintain business ties to Europe, even as Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei continues to vilify the U.S.

European and Asian banks, however, would be under pressure to cut ties or risk being hit by restored American sanctions.

The collapse of the agreement, according to the diplomats and experts, could then lead Iran to accelerate its nuclear program and renew pressure on the U.S. or Israel to attack Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure, presenting another unknown about how President-elect Trump will act once in office.

The deal’s failure could also place Mr. Trump in direct conflict with Tehran’s close ally, Russian President  Vladimir Putin, a leader with whom Mr. Trump has said he would work more closely.

“I don’t see how Trump could so directly challenge the Iran deal if he hopes to work with Putin in places like Syria,” said Andrew Tabler, a Mideast expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a U.S. think tank. “You would have to split those two positions, and now they are not.”

Iran has tested the terms of the agreement, though the White House has said Tehran has been compliant.

On Wednesday, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported that Iran was in violation of one term of the nuclear deal, said U.S. and European officials.

Specifically, Tehran had accumulated an excess of heavy water, a key material for a nuclear-weapons program, in recent weeks, the IAEA concluded.

The Obama administration played down the report, stressing that Tehran had committed to quickly ship the excess heavy water to a third country and remain compliant with the deal.

“It’s important to note that Iran made no effort to hide this, hide what it was doing from the IAEA,” Mr. Toner said.

This marked the second time Iran was in excess of its heavy water commitment, U.S. and European officials said. Earlier this year, the Obama administration bought heavy water from Iran for nearly $10 million to help it meet its commitment under the nuclear deal.

Republicans said the Trump administration won’t make such concessions to Iran.

“It’s no surprise that Iran is once again testing the limits of the nuclear deal to see what it can get away with,” said Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas. “In January, a President Trump and a Republican Congress will begin a new policy of resolve toward Iran’s ayatollahs.”

The Trump administration could point to issues such as heavy-water accumulation and ballistic-missile tests to argue to other nations that Iran isn’t in compliance. Some aides to Mr. Trump have suggested tougher U.S. enforcement of Iran’s commitments would force Tehran itself to pull out.

Iran has much to gain from keeping the deal alive, and has complained that the U.S. hasn’t done enough to help it reap economic gains from the agreement. Tehran has said the U.S. has been slow to lift sanctions and encourage other countries to invest in Iran.

Iranian leaders have also said that any new U.S. sanctions on Iran would mark a violation of the nuclear deal.

“Every U.S. president has to understand the realities of today’s world,” Iranian Foreign Minister  Javad Zarif said Wednesday. “The most important thing is that the future U.S. president sticks to agreements.”

Mr. Trump and other Republicans, however, have expressed little interest in aiding Iran’s reintegration into the global economy. And they have instead vowed to constrain Iran’s influence in its region.

“On top of Iran’s illicit development of ballistic missiles, its hostage-taking, and its regional aggression, this latest violation is another sign that Iran has been emboldened by President Obama’s concessions and weakness,” Mr. Cotton said.

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1 Comment

  1. Amir

    November 12, 2021 at 6:51 pm

    First Iran has to respect its deal with P5+1, second, the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly emphasized that it is a sin to built a nuclear bomb, third, a broken glass cannot be put together like before.
    The deal is done whether Trump likes it or not. US want out, ok. Who is the looser, of course, USA. As I said before, USA without Iran in its belly is like a salesman who can’t sell its one way directional idea by dominating its 12 cents $100 paper money in the region of West- Asia, today’s Middle- East.
    Honestly the salesman who used to dominate the world unilaterally pretty much is dead as of November 10 2016. Globalization is the way to go. President- elect, Donald Trump, has one big choice, stay with the world or leave the fast moving world.
    Iran would be the bridge between East and West. Iran will be the bridge for the globe to be united rather going to war. The good old days of United States of America as a single dominating force are over. We are at the last chapter of America legacy.
    God help America when world powers really decide to dump US Dollar as reserve currency and replace it with AIIB reserve currency., now id Asia- tomorrow maybe everywhere.

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