Trump set to de­cer­tify land­mark Iran nuke deal

The Straits Times - - TOPOF THE NEWS - Nir­mal Ghosh US Bu­reau Chief In Wash­ing­ton

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is widely ex­pected to de­cer­tify a land­mark nu­clear deal with Iran af­ter the White House yes­ter­day ac­cused Te­heran of ex­port­ing vi­o­lence, desta­bil­is­ing its neigh­bours and spon­sor­ing ter­ror­ism abroad.

But Mr Trump’s de­ci­sion – which comes de­spite the fact that Iran is in com­pli­ance with the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion (JCPOA), as the 2015 deal is for­mally known – stops short of tak­ing the United States out of the ac­cord.

It passes the ball to Congress to de­cide on the fu­ture of JCPOA, which in­cludes the op­tion of walk­ing out and reim­pos­ing pu­n­ish­ing sanc­tions on Iran.

It also gives the US Trea­sury au­thor­ity to tar­get Iran’s no­to­ri­ous Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son told jour­nal­ists that Wash­ing­ton did not dis­pute that Iran was in tech­ni­cal com­pli­ance with the JCPOA.

But he added that the agree­ment left un­ad­dressed Te­heran’s sup­port to the Le­banon-based mil­i­tant Hizbol­lah group, its “ex­port of for­eign fight­ers” and its bal- lis­tic mis­sile pro­gramme.

US pol­icy was that “Iran will never have nu­clear weapons”, Mr Tiller­son said. Yet the deal pro­vided a “count­down clock till when Iran can re­sume its nu­clear pro­gramme”.

“Ei­ther we put more teeth into the obli­ga­tions Iran has un­der- taken or let’s just for­get the whole thing and we will walk away and start all over,” he said.

Mr Trump wants Congress to amend the Iran Nu­clear Agree­ment Re­view Act of 2015, which stip­u­lates that the US Pres­i­dent must re­cer­tify it ev­ery 90 days.

A new ver­sion should spec­ify “trig­ger points” which, if crossed by Iran, would au­to­mat­i­cally al­low for sanc­tions to re­sume.

But an­a­lysts say the de­ci­sion car­ries grave risks, in­clud­ing open­ing up a dam­ag­ing rift with Euro­pean al­lies, em­bold­en­ing hard­lin­ers in Iran and fur­ther desta­bil­is­ing an al­ready volatile Mid­dle East, and call- ing into ques­tion the US’ com­mit­ment to in­ter­na­tional agree­ments.

Be­sides the US, China, Rus­sia, the Euro­pean Union and in­di­vid­u­ally Ger­many, France and Bri­tain signed off on the deal. They lifted rig­or­ous sanc­tions on Iran in ex­change for Te­heran curb­ing its nu­clear pro­gramme.

“The mes­sage is, even af­ter we ne­go­ti­ate and sign a deal with you, and even if ev­ery­one agrees that you are com­ply­ing, the next ad­min­is­tra­tion can jet­ti­son it,” Mr Uzair Younus, an an­a­lyst with the Wash­ing­ton con­sul­tancy Al­bright Stone­bridge Group, wrote in an e-mail.

“Af­ter de­cer­ti­fy­ing JCPOA, why would any­one, in­clud­ing the Tale­ban, North Kore­ans and other na­tions, want to do the painful work of sign­ing agree­ments with us?” he added.

Both China and Rus­sia yes­ter­day urged the US not to aban­don the deal, with the For­eign Min­istry spokesman in Bei­jing say­ing that it was “im­por­tant to en­sur­ing the in­ter­na­tional nu­clear non­pro­lif­er­a­tion regime and re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity”.

Ira­nian Par­lia­ment Speaker Ali Lar­i­jani, who was in St Peters­burg for an in­ter­na­tional par­lia­men­tary fo­rum, said the nu­clear deal would be ended if the US left it.

PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A protest in Wash­ing­ton on Thurs­day call­ing for diplo­macy with Iran. The White House yes­ter­day ac­cused Te­heran of ex­port­ing vi­o­lence, desta­bil­is­ing its neigh­bours and spon­sor­ing ter­ror­ism abroad.

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