Rip Iran deal? Eas­ier said than done

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

As a can­di­date, Don­ald Trump promised to tear up the Iran nu­clear deal, the sig­na­ture diplo­matic break­through of Barack Obama’s sec­ond term. As pres­i­dent-elect, Trump has been more cir­cum­spect, and the United States would face se­ri­ous in­ter­na­tional fall­out if he made good on his threat. Signed in Vi­enna in July 2015 and in force since Jan­uary, the agree­ment was made pos­si­ble by 18 months of back-chan­nel talks be­tween Wash­ing­ton and arch-foe Tehran in 2012 and 2013.

But it was also, af­ter the ne­go­ti­a­tions be­came pub­lic, a two-year joint ef­fort for the so-called P5+1 — Bri­tain, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia, the United States and the Euro­pean Union. And, once these pow­ers and Iran signed it, the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil en­dorsed it as in­ter­na­tional law. It was not un­con­tro­ver­sial. US al­lies Saudi Ara­bia and Is­rael in par­tic­u­lar feared it would only de­lay Iran’s al­leged quest for a bomb while em­bold­en­ing it in other do­mains. But nei­ther these naysay­ers nor the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency, the UN nu­clear watch­dog, has caught Tehran’s Is­lamist regime un­der­min­ing it, and it has be­come a key plank of world coun­ter­pro­lif­er­a­tion ef­forts. In Wash­ing­ton, how­ever, the deal is still a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball and Obama’s Repub­li­can op­po­nents - now led by Pres­i­dent-elect Trump - have been scathing.

‘Worst Deal Ever’

Trump has called the agree­ment un­der which the Iran deal was im­ple­mented, the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion or JCPOA, the “worst deal ever ne­go­ti­ated”. And he has vowed to re­view pro­vi­sions to re­turn to Tehran tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in funds frozen in West­ern banks in re­turn for re­stric­tions on its nu­clear pro­gram. The JCPOA is not a treaty rat­i­fied by Con­gress as US law and - as Amer­i­can of­fi­cials con­firmed this week af­ter Trump’s elec­tion - there is no le­gal rea­son he could not ab­ro­gate it.

But it would of­fend the other al­lies with whom the deal was con­cluded and who trusted the United States to up­hold it, and it would al­most cer­tainly trig­ger a Mid­dle East arms race. One of Trump’s for­eign pol­icy ad­vis­ers, Walid Phares, told the BBC that “rip­ping up is maybe a too strong of word” but that the deal would be rene­go­ti­ated by the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion. Whether this would amount to any­thing con­crete re­mains to be seen. Sup­port­ers of the ac­cord - those who hoped it would lead to a broader “re­bal­anc­ing” of US ties in the re­gion in Tehran’s fa­vor and Riyadh’s cost - are adamant.

“The United States can­not uni­lat­er­ally void or amend the agree­ment with­out vi­o­lat­ing in­ter­na­tional law,” ar­gued Trita Parsi, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Ira­nian Amer­i­can Coun­cil. “Any ef­fort to di­rectly kill the deal - or even rene­go­ti­ate it will iso­late the United States, and not Iran,” he wrote in an op-ed for the For­eign Pol­icy web­site. Even less par­ti­san voices agree.

Ge­orge Perkovich of the Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace said Wash­ing­ton’s clos­est al­lies would see a uni­lat­eral bid by Wash­ing­ton to rene­go­ti­ate as a “rogue ac­tion”. “They would con­sider the United States to be in vi­o­la­tion of the deal and would not feel bound to reim­pose or tighten sanc­tions on Iran, as the United States might wish,” he wrote.

Where Blame would Fall

“Mean­while, Iran could exploit such a US move and threaten to, or ac­tu­ally stop, ob­serv­ing nu­clear re­straints,” he added. “The rest of the world would blame the re­sul­tant global cri­sis di­rectly on the new US pres­i­dent. This would not be a good bar­gain­ing po­si­tion for the United States.” The Euro­pean Union’s head of in­ter­na­tional af­fairs, Fed­er­ica Mogherini, has al­ready sought to re­mind Trump that the Iran deal is a “mul­ti­lat­eral ac­cord,” not a US bar­gain­ing chip. But the US elec­torate has cho­sen a leader with no for­eign pol­icy ex­pe­ri­ence. What he de­cides to do will only be­come clear af­ter his in­au­gu­ra­tion, in Jan­uary. —AFP

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