Trump throws Iran deal to Congress

Of­fi­cials say ac­cord not killed out­right

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON: Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was set to un­veil a more ag­gres­sive strat­egy to check Iran’s grow­ing power yes­ter­day, but stopped short of with­draw­ing from a land­mark nu­clear deal, or declar­ing the pow­er­ful Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Dur­ing a White House speech Mr Trump was ex­pected to de­clare the land­mark 2015 agree­ment — which curbed Iran’s nu­clear pro­gramme in re­turn for mas­sive sanc­tions re­lief — is no longer in the US na­tional in­ter­est.

Of­fi­cials say he will not kill the in­ter­na­tional ac­cord out­right, in­stead “de­cer­ti­fy­ing” the agree­ment and leav­ing US law­mak­ers to de­cide its fate.

Mr Trump had re­peat­edly pledged to over­turn one of his pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama’s crown­ing for­eign pol­icy achieve­ments, de­rid­ing it as “the worst deal” and one agreed to out of “weak­ness.”

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.

While the deal stalled Iran’s nu­clear pro­gramme and thawed re­la­tions be­tween Iran and its “Great Satan”, op­po­nents say it also pre­vented ef­forts to chal­lenge Ira­nian in­flu­ence in the Mid­dle East.

Since coming to of­fice, Mr Trump has faced in­tense lob­by­ing from in­ter­na­tional al­lies and his own na­tional se­cu­rity team, who ar­gued the deal should re­main in place.

In another par­tial climb­down, Mr Trump is also ex­pected to levy lim­ited sanc­tions against the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards, rather than invit­ing re­tal­i­a­tion by des­ig­nat­ing it as a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The out­come “prob­a­bly re­flects more some of the di­vi­sions and de­bates within the ad­min­is­tra­tion,” said for­mer US Mid­dle East en­voy Den­nis Ross.

Apart from run­ning swathes of Iran’s econ­omy and Iran’s bal­lis­tic pro­gramme, the corps is also ac­cused of guid­ing bel­li­cose prox­ies from Hezbol­lah in Le­banon, to the Huthi in Ye­men to Shia mili­tia in Iraq and Syria.

Still, Mr Trump’s tough-guy gam­bit could yet risk un­do­ing years of care­ful diplo­macy and in­creas­ing Mid­dle East ten­sions.

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

Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani lashed out at US coun­ter­part say­ing he was op­pos­ing “the whole world” by try­ing to aban­don a land­mark nu­clear agree­ment.

“It will be ab­so­lutely clear which is the law­less gov­ern­ment. It will be clear which coun­try is re­spected by the na­tions of the world and global pub­lic opin­ion,” he added.

And Congress must now de­cide whether to end the nu­clear ac­cord by “snap­ping back” sanc­tions, which Iran de­manded be lifted in ex­change for lim­it­ing ura­nium en­rich­ment.

Many law­mak­ers are wait­ing to see how Mr Trump presents the choice be­fore de­cid­ing whether to keep or tor­pedo the agree­ment.

In a state­ment, lead­ing Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Marco Ru­bio de­scribed the ac­cord as “fa­tally-flawed” and said he was open to leg­is­la­tion that would “sub­stan­tially im­prove Amer­ica’s abil­ity to counter Iran’s nu­clear, ter­ror­ism, mil­i­tancy and re­gional threats.”

Mr Trump has been rail­ing against the Iran deal since be­fore he was elected in Novem­ber last year.

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

Right up un­til t he l ast minute, Amer­ica’s clos­est al­lies have urged him to re­con­sider.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son spent much of the week on the tele­phone, talk­ing through a de­ci­sion that is deeply un­pop­u­lar with al­lies.

Af­ter Mr Trump’s na­tion­al­ist UN speech last month, 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.

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

In par­al­lel, her for­eign min­is­ter, Boris John­son, told his US coun­ter­part Mr Tiller­son “that the nu­clear deal was a his­toric achieve­ment.”

“It was the cul­mi­na­tion of 13 years of painstak­ing diplo­macy and has in­creased se­cu­rity, both in the re­gion and in the UK,” he ar­gued.

AFP

Stu­dents watch a man dressed as US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump take part in a protest call­ing for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to con­tinue diplo­macy with Iran.

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