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Trump May Squash Iran Nuclear Deal: Tensions Rise in the Middle East

BY PRABASI NEPALI
The Iran nuclear deal framework was a preliminary agreement reached in 2015 between the Islamic Republic of Iran and a group of world powers: the P 5 + 1 + 1 – the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China, plus Germany and the European Union (EU). Negotiations for a framework deal over the nuclear programme of Iran took place between the foreign ministers of the countries at a series of meetings held from 26 March to 2 April 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland. On 2 April the talks came to a conclusion and a press conference was held by Federica Mogherini (High Representative of the EU for Foreign affairs and Security Policy) and Mohammad Javad Zarif (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran) to announce that the eight parties had reached an agreement on a framework deal. On 14 July 2015, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the P5 + 1 (Germany) + 1 (EU), a wide-ranging agreement based on the April 2015 framework, was announced.
According to the joint statement, Iran would redesign, convert, and reduce its nuclear facilities and accept the Additional Protocol in order to lift all nuclear-related economic sanctions, freeing up tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue and frozen assets. The joint statement outlines the following:
Regarding enrichment:
* Iran’s enrichment capacity, enrichment level and stockpile will be limited for specified durations.
* There will be no enrichment facilities other than Natanz.
* Iran is allowed to conduct research and development on centrifuges with an agreed scope and schedule.
* Fordow, the underground enrichment centre, will be converted to a “nuclear, physics and technology centre”.
* The Heavy Water facility in Arak with help of international venture will be redesigned and modernized to “Heavy Water Research Reactor” with no weapon grade plutonium byproducts.
With regard to monitoring, Iran agreed to International Atom Energy Agency (IAEA) procedure with enhanced access to modern technologies to clarify past and present issues.
Regarding sanctions, the IAEA will verify Iran’s implementation of its key nuclear commitments, in order that
* The EU will terminate all nuclear-related economic sanctions.
* The United States will cease the application of all nuclear-related secondary economic sanctions and financial sanctions.
* The UN Security Council will endorse this agreement with a resolution which terminates all previous nuclear-related resolutions and incorporate certain restrictive measures for a mutually agreed period of time.
The agreement imposing restrictions and allowing international inspection of Iran’s nuclear programme now faces a critical test on May 12, when waivers that keep US sanctions inoperative are due for renewal. If President Trump declines to issue the waivers – as he has threatened time and again – the JCPOA will breakdown eventually. This would allow Iran to resume aspects of its nuclear programme, as it was doing prior to 2013. It looks as if Trump will effectively demolish the agreement on May 12 without any realistic expectation for negotiating a new or better deal, in spite of the efforts of the major West European powers in this regard.
Last week, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an amateurish and theatrical attempt to portray that Iran cannot be trusted, and is on the brink of unleashing nuclear devastation across the region. John Kerry, President Obama’s Secretary of State and one of the architects of the nuclear deal, rejected Netanyahu’s crude attempt, which represented “every reason the world came together to apply years of sanctions and negotiate the Iran nuclear agreement – because the threat was real and had to be stopped. It’s working!” Netanyahu probably succeeded in emboldening Trump as they are birds of a feather, seeing in Iran the main enemy of the US, Israel and the Sunni Arab states of the region. In the words of Stephen Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard, “the Bush administration was better at inventing a phony case for war with Iraq than the Trump team is at conjuring up a phony case for war with Iran. But doesn’t mean they won’t eventually succeed.” [!] Most independent observers are of the opinion that Iran has a right to complain. According to the British “The Guardian”, Iran “has unplugged two-thirds of its centrifuges and shipped out 98 percent of its enriched uranium, but has not seen the economic benefits it was promised. Nearly three years on, not a single tier-one European bank is prepared to do
business with Iran. The country’s currency crisis last month showed the extent of its economic vulnerability.” Trump’s controversial Muslim travel ban has targeted specially Iranians to a great extent and is impeding the growth of tourism. At a time when Iran is fully complying with the nuclear deal which is also starting to deliver, Trump seems adamant in torpedoing it. This would also endanger the position of the reformist elite around President Hassan Rouhani and strengthen the hand of the extremists, including the Revolutionary Guards, bent on creating mischief in the region. Trump seems to be unaware of the ramifications of his potential move – nor does he care. He has definitely not read the Iran nuclear agreement, nor, it seems, been briefed in detail about it [or even the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Paris Climate pact] – ‘a little knowledge is a [most] dangerous thing’. With a sense of personal pique or even inferiority complex vis-à-vis Obama’s impressive accomplishments, Trump is putting his own country and the world in acute danger.
If the US dismantles the Iran nuclear deal, it will be more than just “a typical Trumpian blunder”, according to Harvard professor Stephen M. Walt, but “will also be another sign of Europe’s strategic irrelevance, and its leaders’ collective inability to either stand up to the United States or alter its thinking on an issue of paramount importance.” The decision on the Iran nuclear deal is undoubtedly one of the most consequential and will have repercussions in nearly every region of the world. It could escalate tensions in the already volatile Middle East, strain US alliances with Europe and complicate relations with Russia and China, which are signatories to the pact. The three key European leaders – French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and British Prime Minister Theresa May did go to great lengths to persuade Trump not to abandon the nuclear deal, but all to no avail. Instead of taking a principled, tough stance, all three leaders chose to placate and flatter Trump instead. Thus Walt: “The practical result of all this sucking up was disastrous. The top European powers had effectively caved in to the Trump administration’s view that the Iran deal is inadequate and has to be either replaced or supplemented by additional agreements.” Their leaders can no longer think in strategic terms, and since Iran rejects any amendments, the situation in the region has become highly instable, tense and on the verge of armed conflict. Macron himself has now conceded, in an interview with the German newsmagazine “Der Spiegel” that exiting the Iran deal “would mean opening Pandora’sbox” and could mean war.
Trump’s utter lack of comprehension of the inter-connectivity of international relations – and his downright unreliability as a negotiating partner — will also have a profound effect on his so-called ‘initiative’ in the Korean Peninsula. As with Iran, he thinks that he can bully his way through in achieving the complete ‘denuclearization’ of North Korea. On Sunday,
Pyongyang has already warned that the US is ruining the mood of détente by its “misleading” claims that Trump’s policy of maximum political pressure and sanctions are what drove the North to the negotiating table. But blustering Trump will meet more than his equal in the person of Kim Jong-un, who may be a savage tyrant, but who is better prepared to defend and promote his nation’s vital national interests than a blundering ‘dotard’.

The columnist can be reached at: prabasinepali43@gmail.com

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