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