Trump breaks with al­lies as US goes it alone on Iran

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASH­ING­TON: Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is poised to break with US al­lies and with­draw his back­ing from the Iran nu­clear ac­cord, un­der­min­ing a land­mark vic­tory of mul­ti­lat­eral diplo­macy.

On Fri­day, the “Amer­ica First” pres­i­dent is ex­pected to de­clare to Con­gress that re­tain­ing the 2015 agree­ment is no longer in the US na­tional in­ter­est.

This in it­self does not mean the deal will col­lapse. US law­mak­ers will have 60 days to de­cide whether they want to “snap back” the sanc­tions Wash­ing­ton has sus­pended.

But it will mark a clear break with Wash­ing­ton’s al­lies, who have pleaded with Trump to re­spect the ac­cord, and a fierce blow to the mul­ti­lat­eral in­ter­na­tional or­der.

The agree­ment was signed between Iran and six world pow­ers — Bri­tain, China, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia and the US — at talks co­or­di­nated by the Euro­pean Union.

UN nu­clear in­spec­tors say Iran is meet­ing the tech­ni­cal re­quire­ments of its side of the bar­gain, dra­mat­i­cally cur­tail­ing its nu­clear pro­gram in ex­change for sanc­tions re­lief.

So, while US of­fi­cials still in­sist that “Amer­ica First” does not mean “Amer­ica Alone,” on this is­sue they are starkly iso­lated. The other sig­na­to­ries all back the deal.

“This is the worst deal. We got noth­ing,” Trump thun­dered to Fox News on Wed­nes­day. “We did it out of weak­ness when ac­tu­ally, we have great strength.”

Trump, whose ad­dress to this year’s UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly was a hymn to na­tional sovereignty, has been rail­ing against the Iran deal since be­fore he was elected.

In of­fice, he has chafed at be­ing re­quired un­der US law to re-cer­tify Iran’s com­pli­ance with the ac­cord ev­ery 90 days, declar­ing that Tehran has bro­ken it “in spirit.”

Now, as he pre­pares to roll out a broader US strat­egy to com­bat Iran’s ex­pand­ing power in the Mid­dle East, he feels the time has come to turn his back on the deal.

Right up un­til the last minute, Amer­ica’s clos­est al­lies have urged Trump to think again.

Af­ter his na­tion­al­ist UN speech, EU for­eign pol­icy chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini warned that the deal “doesn’t be­long to one coun­try... it be­longs to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.”

US al­lies have not been con­vinced by the ar­gu­ment that the deal fell short be­cause it left Iran free to de­velop bal­lis­tic mis­siles and spon­sor proxy mili­tias in its re­gion.

“Mix­ing ev­ery­thing means risk­ing ev­ery­thing,” a French diplo­matic source said. “The ex­is­ten­tial threat is the bomb. The nu­clear deal is not meant to solve Le­banon’s problems.”

Europe fears not only that Iran will re­sume the quest for the bomb but that the US is re­lin­quish­ing its lead­er­ship role in a sta­ble, rules-based in­ter­na­tional sys­tem.

On Tues­day, Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May called the White House to im­press upon her govern­ment’s “strong com­mit­ment to the deal along­side our Euro­pean part­ners.”

In par­al­lel, her For­eign Sec­re­tary, Boris John­son, told his US coun­ter­part Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son “that the nu­clear deal was a his­toric achieve­ment.”

But the US ad­min­is­tra­tion barely ac­knowl­edged the calls, and Euro­pean di­plo­mats in Wash­ing­ton pri­vately com­plain that their mes­sage is not get­ting through.

One Western diplo­mat said that once Trump “de­cer­ti­fies” the deal their ef­forts will move to Con­gress, where they will urge US law­mak­ers not to re-im­pose sanc­tions.

“Our em­bassy is work­ing with the leg­is­la­ture,” Ger­man For­eign Min­istry spokesman Rainer Breul said this week. “We are look­ing for di­a­logue, to ex­plain our ar­gu­ments.”

They will find some sym­pa­thetic ears in Con­gress but this will not move Trump. His most se­nior for­eign pol­icy ad­vis­ers have also urged him to back the deal, to no avail.

Last week, US Sec­re­tary of De­fense Jim Mat­tis was asked whether he be­lieves the Iran deal re­mains in the US na­tional in­ter­est.

“Yes, se­na­tor, I do,” he replied. “I be­lieve at this point in time, ab­sent in­di­ca­tion to the con­trary, it is some­thing that the pres­i­dent should con­sider stay­ing with.”

Since that tes­ti­mony, Mat­tis and Tiller­son have had lunch with Trump and dis­cussed Iran, but Trump later spoke once more against the deal on Fox tele­vi­sion. “We will see what hap­pens pretty soon,” Trump warned.

Sally Jones’ 12-year-old son Jojo is feared to have been killed in the drone strike that wiped out his mum.

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