What to ex­pect if Trump un­does the Iran nu­clear deal

Iran Daily - - National -

By Seyed Hos­sein Mousa­vian

In the midst of ma­jor global crises, from North Korean mis­sile tests to the con­tin­u­ing fight against Is­lamic State, President Trump is seem­ingly ob­sessed with one for­eign pol­icy goal: un­do­ing the July 2015 Iran nu­clear deal, which eased in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions on Tehran in ex­change for curbs on Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram.

While Trump has long ex­pressed his dis­dain for the mul­ti­lat­eral deal — be­tween Iran and six world pow­ers in­clud­ing the United States — the lat­est de­vel­op­ment is that his UN am­bas­sador last week laid out a spu­ri­ous case for US with­drawal. Con­ve­niently, the self-de­feat­ing plan in­volves punt­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for sab­o­tag­ing the agree­ment to Con­gress.

If the United States scut­tles the deal, the con­se­quences will be dras­tic, not least for the cause of nu­clear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion and Amer­ica’s global cred­i­bil­ity. As I learned in meet­ings with Ira­nian po­lit­i­cal fig­ures dur­ing a trip to Iran last month, an about-face will also lead to a shift in that coun­try’s for­eign pol­icy.

The Ira­nian for­eign pol­icy es­tab­lish­ment has long been di­vided on the mer­its of nor­mal­iz­ing re­la­tions with the West and con­tain­ing U.s.-ira­nian ten­sions. The more in­tran­si­gent school of thought in Tehran holds that U.S. poli­cies are no bet­ter than bul­ly­ing and that any flex­i­bil­ity Iran shows will only in­vite more pres­sure.

Since President Has­san Rouhani’s elec­tion in 2013, the more con­cil­ia­tory Ira­nian for­eign pol­icy es­tab­lish­ment has been as­cen­dant. This fac­tion pinned much of its cred­i­bil­ity on the peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of the nu­clear cri­sis and the West de­liv­er­ing on its side of the nu­clear deal — namely sanc­tions re­lief — thereby val­i­dat­ing their ar­gu­ments on the ben­e­fits of such ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The nu­clear deal thus be­came a sem­i­nal cri­te­rion in Tehran for judg­ing whether the West, in par­tic­u­lar the United States, could be trusted.

Ira­nian Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei de­clared in April 2015: “Now, this [nu­clear ne­go­ti­a­tions] is a new ex­pe­ri­ence. If the other side [the United States] sets aside its bad be­hav­ior, this will be­come a new ex­pe­ri­ence for us, one that will tell us that, well, we can also ne­go­ti­ate with them about other is­sues. But, if they re­peat the same be­hav­ior and take the wrong path, it [the ne­go­ti­a­tions] will only re­in­force our past ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Be­cause Trump has put the deal in his crosshairs, ad­vo­cates of diplo­matic en­gage­ment with the West in Iran are be­ing dis­cred­ited. If he goes ahead with his stated wish to undo it, a do­mes­tic con­sen­sus will form not to trust, ne­go­ti­ate or co­op­er­ate with the United States on any fu­ture is­sue.

Pol­i­cy­mak­ers in Tehran will also watch to see if Europe goes along with any Trump-led ini­tia­tives to pres­sure Iran.

If Euro­pean lead­ers hold stead­fast to the deal, as they have said they will, it will prove that Iran can pur­sue a re­la­tion­ship with the West mi­nus the United States. Iran may well co­op­er­ate with Europe — and only Europe — on re­gional is­sues such as de­feat­ing Is­lamic State and sta­bi­liz­ing neigh­bor­ing coun­tries.

On the other hand, if Europe fol­lows the U.S. de­spite full Ira­nian ad­her­ence to the terms of the nu­clear deal, then Tehran would have le­git­i­mate grounds to pri­or­i­tize Ira­nian se­cu­rity over all other con­sid­er­a­tions. Specif­i­cally, such a be­trayal of Iran’s good faith will ig­nite calls in the coun­try’s se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment to bol­ster Iran’s means of de­ter­rence — in­clud­ing its bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram and re­gional al­liance net­work.

Ira­nian re­la­tions with East­ern coun­tries such as Rus­sia, China and In­dia could also change. Dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, these states joined in on anti-iran sanc­tions, shock­ing then-ira­nian President Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad, who had a “look to the East” pol­icy. If they de­cide to buck Trump — and per­haps Europe as well — Iran’s geopo­lit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tion will de­ci­sively shift to­ward the East. Iran will in the new mul­ti­po­lar age look to these ris­ing pow­ers for co­op­er­a­tion in the realms of trade, se­cu­rity and in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics.

As Trump weighs his next move, he should know that spik­ing the nu­clear deal won’t re­turn Iran, or the world, to the status quo ante. If he goes back on his pre­de­ces­sor’s prom­ise, Amer­ica’s hold on the re­gion will de­te­ri­o­rate as Iran loses any re­main­ing faith in the U.S. and builds part­ner­ships else­where.

Seyed Hos­sein Mousa­vian is a scholar at Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity and a for­mer head of the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee of Iran’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. His lat­est book is “Iran and the United States: An In­sider’s View on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iran

© PressReader. All rights reserved.