Iran deal en­dan­gered if US’ Trump seeks to rene­go­ti­ate its terms

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASH­ING­TON: Don­ald Trump isn’t go­ing to rip up the Iran nu­clear deal on day one as pres­i­dent, but his vows to rene­go­ti­ate the terms and in­crease en­force­ment could im­peril an agree­ment that has put off the threat of Tehran de­vel­op­ing atomic weapons. Em­bold­ened Repub­li­can law­mak­ers are al­ready con­sid­er­ing ways to test Iran’s re­solve to live up to the deal. As a can­di­date, Trump is­sued a va­ri­ety of state­ments about last year’s pact. He called it “stupid,” a “lop­sided dis­grace” and the “worst deal ever ne­go­ti­ated,” rail­ing against its time-limited restric­tions on Iran’s en­rich­ment of ura­nium and other nu­clear ac­tiv­ity, and ex­ag­ger­at­ing the scale of US con­ces­sions.

Trump said that he doesn’t want to sim­ply tear up the agree­ment. In­stead, he spoke of re­open­ing the di­plo­macy and de­clared that un­like Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s diplo­mats, he would have been pre­pared to walk away from talks. Trump’s ex­act plans are vague, how­ever, and a rene­go­ti­a­tion would be dif­fi­cult. Iran has lit­tle in­cen­tive to open talks over a deal it is sat­is­fied with. And none of the other coun­tries in the seven-na­tion ac­cord has ex­pressed in­ter­est in pick­ing apart an un­der­stand­ing that took more than a decade of stop-and-go di­plo­macy and al­most two full years of ne­go­ti­a­tion to com­plete.

As Iran’s supreme leader, Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, has said: If the US tears up the agree­ment, “we will light it on fire.” Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani said this week no coun­try could sim­ply change what was agreed, point­ing to a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion that en­dorsed the pack­age. The deal, which went into ef­fect in Jan­uary, forced Iran to pull back from the brink of nu­clear weapons ca­pac­ity in ex­change for an end to many of the US and Euro­pean sanc­tions that dev­as­tated Iran’s econ­omy. It has been largely re­spected de­spite undi­min­ished US-Ira­nian ten­sions through­out the Mid­dle East, in­clud­ing their sup­port for ri­val sides in Syria and Ye­men’s civil wars.

Each side has lever­age: Iran doesn’t want a new on­slaught of US-led eco­nomic pres­sure and Amer­ica would be alarmed by any Ira­nian es­ca­la­tion of its nu­clear pro­gram. But the ac­cord rests on frag­ile ground, with pow­er­ful con­tin­gen­cies in Wash­ing­ton and Tehran ve­he­mently op­posed and look­ing for any ex­cuse to break it apart. In such a cli­mate, it’s un­clear what Trump’s de­mands for a rene­go­ti­a­tion might mean. “The agree­ment is valid only as long as all par­ties up­hold it,” State Depart­ment spokesman Mark Toner ac­knowl­edged Wed­nes­day in the agency’s first brief­ing since Trump’s stun­ning elec­tion vic­tory over Hil­lary Clin­ton to be­come the 45th pres­i­dent.

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