Ira­ni­ans un­fazed by Trump’s stand on nu­clear deal

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY GUY TAY­LOR

Iran’s top lead­ers on Wed­nes­day re­jected the idea that Don­ald Trump’s sur­prise vic­tory un­der­cuts the in­ter­na­tional deal to curb Tehran’s nu­clear pro­grams, as a top con­tender for sec­re­tary of state in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion said he doubts the pres­i­dent-elect will “just rip the agree­ment up” on his first day of of­fice.

But Senate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bob Corker, a Ten­nessee Repub­li­can who has ac­knowl­edged he is “in the mix” for a top Trump Cabi­net slot, also said the in­com­ing pres­i­dent will have a man­date from the Repub­li­can-dom­i­nated Congress to sharply en­force the 2015 nu­clear ac­cord — and that Ira­ni­ans “likely will hang them­selves” with vi­o­la­tions of the deal.

Mr. Corker made the com­ments as ad­vo­cacy groups reached new heights to jockey for in­flu­ence of Mr. Trump’s ap­proach to Iran. The Is­lamic re­pub­lic’s two top lead­ers dis­missed con­cerns that Mr. Trump’s win jeop­ar­dized the agree­ment, which lifted pun­ish­ing in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions on the Ira­nian econ­omy.

In sep­a­rate re­marks on Ira­nian state tele­vi­sion, Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, who has final au­thor­ity over all pol­icy mat­ters in the na­tion, said the sur­prise vic­tory for Mr. Trump, a fierce critic of the nu­clear deal, will have lit­tle prac­ti­cal im­pact on the agree­ment or how Iran con­ducts it­self.

“We nei­ther mourn nor cheer be­cause it makes no dif­fer­ence to us. We do not have any judgment on the elec­tion,” said Ay­a­tol­lah Khamenei. “We are also not wor­ried. And we are ready for any pos­si­ble in­ci­dent.”

Mr. Rouhani said Iran will honor its com­mit­ments un­der the nu­clear ac­cord but sug­gested that Tehran will con­tinue to con­duct it­self as it wishes on other fronts, re­gard­less of any pol­icy shifts in Wash­ing­ton.

“If a pres­i­dent is changed here and there, it has no im­pact on the will of Iran,” Mr. Rouhani said. “Based on the deal, we im­ple­ment our com­mit­ment.”

The U.S. is only one sig­na­tory to the deal, which was also signed by Rus­sia, China, Bri­tain, France and Ger­many. None of the al­lies has called for killing the deal or rene­go­ti­at­ing ma­jor pro­vi­sions.

With­out men­tion­ing Mr. Trump by name, the Ira­nian pres­i­dent said, “The world is not un­der the will of a sin­gle in­di­vid­ual and party. The re­al­ity of the world will im­pose many things on ex­trem­ists.

“No­body should imag­ine it is pos­si­ble to play with Iran,” he said.

There has been a sharp de­bate in Wash­ing­ton over whether Iran has hon­ored its com­mit­ments. Crit­ics of the deal say Tehran clearly has not mod­er­ated its be­hav­ior in other ar­eas, in­clud­ing test­ing new bal­lis­tic mis­siles and con­tin­u­ing to sup­port move­ments across the re­gion that the U.S. gov­ern­ment re­gards as ter­ror­ist.

The Vi­enna-based In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency, which is over­see­ing the ac­cord’s im­ple­men­ta­tion, said in a re­port last week that Iran had ex­ceeded the amount of “heavy wa­ter” — ma­te­rial that can be used to pro­duce fis­sile ma­te­rial for a plu­to­nium bomb — al­lowed un­der the deal.

Trump’s plans

On the cam­paign trail, Mr. Trump re­peat­edly slammed the ac­cord and at one point called it the “worst deal ever ne­go­ti­ated.” But he has been un­clear on whether he would im­me­di­ately pull out of the agree­ment as pres­i­dent or whether he would sim­ply toughen U.S. en­force­ment of Tehran’s ob­ser­vance of its com­mit­ments.

Mr. Corker, who told CNBC on Wed­nes­day that he has talked with Mr. Trump’s team about a po­ten­tial sec­re­tary of state ap­point­ment, later said on CNN that he doesn’t think Mr. Trump “will tear [the deal] up, and I don’t think that’s the way to start.”

“What I think he should do is build con­sen­sus with these other coun­tries that [the Ira­ni­ans] are def­i­nitely vi­o­lat­ing the agree­ment,” said Mr. Corker, adding that the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion should get se­ri­ous about “push­ing back strongly against” Iran’s sup­port of ter­ror­ist move­ments in the re­gion, in­clud­ing Syria and Ye­men.

“There’s mul­ti­ple pres­sure points that we can push back against Iran on,” the Ten­nessee Repub­li­can said. “My guess is that the pres­i­dent-elect will pur­sue those and over time re­ally make a final de­ci­sion as to how he wants to deal with this is­sue.”

An­a­lysts say rene­go­ti­a­tion is likely to prove dif­fi­cult at this point — namely be­cause the Ira­ni­ans ap­pear to be sat­is­fied with the deal and have lit­tle in­cen­tive to re­open talks with U.S. diplo­mats.

Vy­ing for in­flu­ence

Wash­ing­ton-based ad­vo­cacy groups on both sides of the Iran is­sue are mo­bi­liz­ing to try to sway the next pres­i­dent. The Na­tional Ira­nian Amer­i­can Coun­cil, which backed the nu­clear agree­ment, re­leased a re­port this week call­ing on Mr. Trump not to aban­don the ac­cord but to “ex­pand on the open­ing with Iran” that the deal cre­ated.

Also, 76 na­tional se­cu­rity an­a­lysts signed onto the re­port, which ar­gues that “the nu­clear deal it­self was a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to re­gional sta­bil­ity.”

“The deal proved that diplo­macy with Iran can bear fruit de­spite skep­ti­cism about Ira­nian sin­cer­ity, the in­cli­na­tion of Iran’s Supreme Leader to abide by the deal, or the abil­ity of Ira­nian hard­lin­ers to sab­o­tage diplo­macy,” the group said.

But Repub­li­can law­mak­ers seem un­likely to pay the re­port much heed, and sev­eral of Mr. Trump’s key ad­vis­ers have aligned with an en­tirely dif­fer­ent ad­vo­cacy group that stands in stark op­po­si­tion to the Na­tional Ira­nian Amer­i­can Coun­cil.

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