The Iran deal

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEW - SUZANNE LYNCH

What is the Iran deal?

The Iran deal – or the joint com­pre­hen­sive plan of ac­tion (JCPOA) to give it its full name – was signed by the US, Iran and five other pow­ers in De­cem­ber 2015. It agreed to lift crip­pling eco­nomic sanc­tions in ex­change for Iran agree­ing to curb its nu­clear pro­gramme and ac­cept­ing a strin­gent pro­gramme of checks by in­ter­na­tional weapon in­spec­tors.

Why didn’t Don­ald Trump like the deal?

Trump made it one of his main for­eign pol­icy cam­paign is­sues, de­scrib­ing it as the “worst deal ever” and vow­ing to aban­don it. To some ex­tent he was not alone – a wide swathe of Repub­li­cans, and in­deed many Democrats, op­posed the deal at the time it was signed, ar­gu­ing that it un­locked cash for Iran without ad­dress­ing broader con­cerns about Iran’s ac­tiv­ity in the re­gion. Barack Obama’s de­ci­sion not to put a vote on the agree­ment to the US Se­nate – he knew he would not get the nec­es­sary two-thirds ma­jor­ity – an­gered many.

What were the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s main is­sues with the deal?

Apart from the view that an agree­ment of this na­ture should never have been made with a hos­tile power like Iran, crit­ics also high­lighted Iran’s role in con­flicts in Ye­men and Syria and said the deal did not ad­dress Iran’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gramme, and that some sites were off lim­its to weapons in­spec­tors.

Was this week’s de­ci­sion ex­pected?

To some ex­tent, yes. Trump laid the ground last Oc­to­ber when he warned he would re­scind the deal if changes weren’t made, though he re­luc­tantly signed a waiver that lifted sanc­tions on Iran. When the waiver dead­line fell again in Jan­uary, he once again re­luc­tantly signed. For the past few months, Euro­pean al­lies have been try­ing to con­vince the US ad­min­is­tra­tion to change its mind, sug­gest­ing that a sup­ple­men­tary agree­ment could be worked out that would ad­dress Amer­i­can con­cerns without the need to tear up the ex­ist­ing agree­ment. But de­spite this diplo­matic of­fen­sive, Trump fol­lowed through with his threat, re-im­pos­ing sanc­tions on Iran.

What has been the re­ac­tion from Tehran?

Some politi­cians burned the Amer­i­can flag and a copy of the agree­ment in the Ira­nian par­lia­ment in re­sponse. Supreme Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei in­toned: “Wait for the day when Trump is dead, his corpse is fed on by snakes and in­sects, but the sys­tem of the Is­lamic Repub­lic will still be stand­ing.” But there was more nu­anced lan­guage from the gov­ern­ment, with Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani stat­ing that Iran would be­gin ne­go­ti­a­tions with the other sig­na­to­ries to try to sal­vage the deal.

What has been the wider global re­ac­tion?

Is­rael and Saudi Ara­bia – two of Amer­ica’s main al­lies in the re­gion – strongly sup­port Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­draw, while Bahrain and United Arab Emi­rates are also in favour. But most of the rest of the global com­mu­nity is aghast. Their ar­gu­ment is that, while the deal was not per­fect, un­der the terms of the agree­ment weapon in­spec­tors had un­prece­dented ac­cess to Iran’s nu­clear ac­tiv­ity, con­firm­ing that Iran had elim­i­nated 95 per cent of its stock­pile of en­riched ura­nium.

What hap­pens next?

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has said it is will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate a new agree­ment with Iran, but this seems un­likely. Euro­pean firms op­er­at­ing in Iran have been given grace pe­ri­ods of 90 and 180 days to wind down op­er­a­tion. Oil prices have been volatile amid ex­pec­ta­tions that Iran will have to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce out­put. In the long term, many won­der if this is the start of a new US strat­egy to­wards Iran. Trump’s re­cently ap­pointed na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton has pre­vi­ously spo­ken of his de­sire for regime change in Iran. For many, the par­al­lels with the run-up to the Iraq war are wor­ry­ing.

■ Ira­nian supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei in­toned: “Wait for the day when Trump is dead, his corpse is fed on by snakes and in­sects, but the sys­tem of the Is­lamic Repub­lic will still be stand­ing.” PHO­TO­GRAPH: AP

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