October 19, 2017

The United States Is Denouncing Iran's Nuclear Deal. What's Next?

Vadym Volokhov

Friday, October 13, 2017, US President D. Trump made a statement on a “new strategy” regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran, in which he “will deny Iran all paths to nuclear weapon”. According to him, Tehran meets the letter, not the spirit of the deal, and at this gets all the benefits of sanctions being lifted.

D. Trump accused Tehran of trying to use the unstable situation in neighboring countries to strengthen its influence in the region, and this has created “one of the most dangerous threats to the interests of the United States”.

The US President called Iran “a fanatical regime that violates the agreement and finances terrorism” and proposed to introduce new sanctions. “We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran's nuclear breakout,” said D. Trump, also threatening that, in the absence of consensus with the US Congress and allies, the nuclear deal with Iran will be canceled instantly.


Foreign ministers from China, France, Germany, the EU, Iran, Great Britain and USA had reached an agreement on Iran's nuclear program, July 14, 2015The Nuclear Agreement (Joint Comprehensive Action Plan, JCPOA) was signed in 2015 between the six world powers (USA, UK, RF, PRC, France and Germany) and Iran. Under this agreement, restrictions were imposed on the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for the regime of international sanctions being eased.

Under the same treaty, the US President reports every three months (90 days) to the Congress that it continues to be fulfilled and meets the national interests of the country, and he recommends to continue lifting the sanctions imposed in response to the Iranian nuclear program.

Since his inauguration, D. Trump has twice reluctantly signed the document, but has now decided to refuse to do so.


It is still unclear what the US Congress will do in response to the President's proposal, because there is no unity among legislators on this issue. Thus, Democrat leader in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, called the President's decision a “grave mistake” that threatens US national interests, while Paul Ryan, the speaker and leader of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, supported D. Trump's decision. The Democrats are determined to maintain what they regard as the legacy of the B. Obama administration that the current US President is trying to destroy. While Republicans, on the contrary, strongly advocate the denouncing of the deal. For example, on the eve of the US President's speech, on the evening of October 12, 2017, Senator-Republican from Tennessee, Chairman of the Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations, Robert Corker, along with Arkansas' Senator-Republican Tom Cotton, released their plan of action on the “automatic” restoration of the sanctions regime against Iran, if it is proved that Tehran within a year is able to develop nuclear weapon, or in some other way violates the agreement.


What was the reaction of the participants of the nuclear deal and international community to the statement by the US President?

International observers believe that Tehran “fully complies with the deal”.

The United Kingdom, France and Germany in a joint statement stressed that the agreement with Iran fully coincides with their national security interests.

The EU's statement points out that the current agreement cannot be denounced by one country's decision.

High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini has stated that Europe and the world cannot afford to cancel the agreement with Iran, which is being respected by all the parties.

President of France Emanuel Macron in his telephone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani assured that France would continue to comply with the deal.

“This deal lives to fight another day and that's a good thing”, has stated Foreign Secretary of the UK Boris Johnson.

Foreign Minister of Germany Sigmar Gabriel has stated that any step by D. Trump's administration to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran would significantly aggravate the contradiction between Europe and the United States, and that “it is imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue… We also have to tell the Americans that their behavior on the Iran issue will drive us, Europeans, into a common position with Russia and China against the United States”.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces of the USA, General Joseph Dunford, on 26 September 2017 reported that Iran was complying with the deal and warned that the USA's withdrawal from the nuclear deal would lead to other countries' more cautious attitude to the conclusion of any agreements with America.

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano has stated that Tehran fully complies with the agreement and all its nuclear facilities “is subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime”.

Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Dan Smith, in his interview with the Iranian “Tasnim News” agency said that the 2015 nuclear deal will remain viable even when the USA withdraws from it.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has stated it does not support the US President's decision, but believes that this will not terminate the deal.

European diplomats warn that any unilateral change could lead to a cancellation of the deal and resumption of a nuclear confrontation in the Middle East.

The US President's decision and his “solid strategy” have been supported by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed US President D. Trump's attempts to “boldly confront Iran's terrorist regime”.

China has not yet responded to D. Trump's statement, but earlier it called on Washington to maintain the deal.

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani in response to D. Trump's statement replied that the United States found itself in isolation. “Can the US President cancel the multilateral international treaty on his own?.. Apparently he does not know that this is not a bilateral treaty solely between Iran and the USA?” — asks H. Rouhani. He also said that Iran would not take part in any re-negotiation on the agreement.


US President D. Trump announces a “New Strategy” on Iran, October 13
US President D. Trump announces
a “New Strategy” on Iran, October 13

What changes does the US President demand?

Firstly, D. Trump states that the deal just slows down, but does not make impossible Iran's producing nuclear weapons, and calls to cancel so-called final articles (“sunset clauses”) of the agreement, one of which provides for lifting restrictions on the uranium enrichment program after 2025. This will mean that it is necessary either to resume negotiations on prolongation of the agreement, or Iran will restore its nuclear program in full, and everything will come back to status quo of 2015.

Secondly, he has announced the introduction of financial sanctions by the US Department of the Treasury on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which he called “corrupt personal terror force of Iran's leader”.

D. Trump has called for restrictions on the program for the development and creation of Iranian ballistic missiles, which is not covered by the deal. (In September of this year, Teheran reported on a successful test of a new ballistic missile with a 2,000 km range). He also has said that the US Congress is drafting amendments to the agreement that would eliminate expiry dates on restrictions to the nuclear researches in Iran.


What does D. Trump's rejection of the deal mean?

The US Congress demands that the President signs the document, which will mean that Iran fulfills its obligations under the treaty. If the President does not do this, Congress should, within 60 days, consider the USA's withdrawing from this agreement and returning to the previously cancelled sanctions regime against IRI.

To withdraw from the deal is very difficult in the situation where other participants are convinced of its efficiency. It is also considered that it is almost impossible to make Britain, France and Germany sit down again at the negotiating table to re-discuss the deal. Such a decision of Washington's can cause a huge diplomatic scandal in relations not only with the three closest allies of the USA in Western Europe, but also with China and the Russian Federation. D. Trump will find it difficult to re-establish a broad coalition that is needed to support new sanctions against Iran.

Will D. Trump break the nuclear deal with Iran?
Will D. Trump break the nuclear deal with Iran?

So, US President D. Trump has actually revised the list of major threats in the Middle East and identified IRI as the “enemy number one”, instead of the “Islamic State” (ISIS). This point of view is shared by his most powerful allies in the region: Israel and the leaders of the Persian Gulf countries, who for many years have been regarding Iran as their main enemy and have been trying not to let it be among the leaders of the Persian Gulf.

Washington's new approach to the deal is threatening with imposing new sanctions, but refrains from announcing the IRGC a “terrorist organization”. Tehran has warned that such a move would mean, in fact, declaring war on Iran. Political analysts predict that such a policy can strengthen the position of supporters of the “tough line” in Iran itself, including in the IRGC. It is known that “Quds Force” of the IRGC take direct part in the fighting in Syria and Iraq against the ISIS.


The Shia CrescentAt one time, for the leading countries of the world and the region, the nuclear deal with Iran was multidimensional in nature and one of its aspects recognized Iran's right to strengthen its role in the region in general and to create the so-called “Shiite corridor (Shia Crescent)” — in particular. In their view, such a corridor could prevent the spread of the ISIS to the north and redirect it to the south, towards the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In the future, the weakening of the KSA had to cause a new wave of Arab revolutions and further fragmentation of the region of the Middle East. Besides, the decline of the Saudis would strengthen Qatar's position and role in shaping regional policy.

For the conservative branch of power in the United States, such a development is unacceptable, because Iran was and remains for them “the enemy number one”.

Some political analysts argue that the 1979 Islamic revolution is nothing more than the development of national liberation movements in new neocolonial circumstances. In their view, the ISIS and the present IS are also an anti-neocolonial revolution, but more radical and less national than the Iranian one. Therefore, the United States could not have allowed the Caliphate to appear and strengthen in this region.

So, the USA's withdrawal from the nuclear deal becomes a prerequisite for closing the entire globalization strategy in the Middle East and North Africa. Opposition to such plans will be powerful, and most importantly, there is no unity within the administration of the President of the United States and the State Department.

Time will tell whether D. Trump will be able to solve this problem immediately. Tehran also expresses concern, because it will be very difficult for it to survive the denouncing of the nuclear deal without problems. In Tehran, it is well understood that the deterioration of relations with the United States will create new difficulties for them in Syria. And the forces of the Western Coalition and Israel, without any obstacles, can begin to strike at the units of the IRGC, that are fighting in Syria against the IS. Already there is information that Shiite formations in Syria have reduced their activity due to the deterioration of interaction with Russian units that are increasingly being drawn into the fight against IS.

Apart from political consequences of the USA's withdrawal from the nuclear deal, there are also economic ones. First of all, it will concern oil. Today, Iran exports around 2.2 million barrels of oil daily. With the restoration of sanctions, exports will decline, and Washington will begin to demand from investors to reduce investments, and not only in the oil and gas industry in Iran. This, in turn, will lead to an increase in the price of oil and raw materials. Everyone understands that if the White House wants to make foreign firms withdraw from Iran, they can always threaten with excluding them from US capital markets.

Supporters of the nuclear deal with Iran are trying to persuade Washington not to withdraw from the deal.

How will Iran behave if it is not controlled by the JCPOA?

How will Tehran react to the USA's growing aggression and hostile attitude? Will Iran not be the second North Korea in the Middle East?