Iran’s nuclear deal has not yet suffered a knockout blow

Maria Dubovikova
Maria Dubovikova

Maria Dubovikova

By : Maria Dubovikova

:: US President Donald Trump’s decision not to certify the Iran nuclear agreement could bring the ghost of war close to Europe. Trump has called on the US Congress to determine within two months whether to re-impose sanctions on Iran that were lifted in 2016 as part of the deal, warning that he would consider terminating the pact entirely. However, re-imposing sanctions goes against the interests of European tycoons and major businesses interested in trade and cooperation with Tehran.

When Trump announced on Oct. 13 that Iran had committed multiple violations of the agreement by “exceeding the limit of 130 metric tons of heavy water” and “failing to meet our expectations in its operation of advanced centrifuges,” the US president meant to say that Iran had already intimidated international inspectors into not using fully the inspection authorities.

However, Iran and the other countries who signed the nuclear deal said they will respect it, mainly after the Iranian reaction to American threats, which stipulated that the US should leave the region as Iran has 2,000km range missiles that can target any of the American bases in the Middle East.

Russian officials have repeatedly said that any bashing of the agreement would lead to instability in the region and that the countries of the Middle East would be dragged into a nuclear arms race that would endanger not only the region, but would extend to Europe and Asia as well. The Russians and the Europeans believe Iran has complied with the details of the pact, while Americans believe Tehran has not. The indication is clear from Trump’s statement against Iran at the United Nations General Assembly last month, when he described it as “the worst deal ever.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement after Trump’s speech that there was no place in international diplomacy for “threatening and aggressive rhetoric,” because such techniques are doomed to fail. The statement read: “It is a hangover from the past, which does not correspond to modern norms of civilized dealings between countries. We viewed with regret the decision of the US President not to confirm to Congress that Iran is fulfilling in good faith” the nuclear deal. Russia considers Trump’s decision to de-certify the deal as not having a direct effect on the progress of implementation of the agreement, although, clearly, it does not correspond to its spirit.

Trump’s decision to decertify the deal means Congress now has 60 days to decide whether to re-impose sanctions. In the meantime, the US will address the agreement’s grave flaws as described by Trump. If the Americans terminate the deal, this would give Iran the chance to resume its drive for nuclear enrichment, as Iranian hard-liners would benefit from this chance by weakening the influence of reformists.

Russia criticizes US’ ‘threatening and aggressive rhetoric’ and considers Trump’s decision to de-certify the deal as not having a direct effect on the progress of implementation of the agreement.

Maria Dubovikova

The Russian reaction toward the American move is in line with the European one. Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, confirmed that the deal between the international community and Iran is not a bilateral agreement and “it is not up to one single country to terminate it.” She also said, “The president of the United States has many powers, (but] not this one.”

However, most important is the Iranian reaction toward American statements regarding the deal. President Hassan Rouhani blamed Trump for maneuvering to get out of his domestic issues by finding a problem outside American borders. Rouhani said that, despite the US president’s aggressive rhetoric, Tehran will be committed to the nuclear deal for the time being. He reiterated that Trump’s threats were “nothing but the repetition of baseless accusations and swear words that they have repeated for years. The Iranian nation does not expect anything else from you.”

It is important to note, that the US political establishment is not united regarding the deal, as there are those who oppose not the deal, but Trump’s approach toward it. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told a Senate committee last week that he believed it was in America’s national security interests to stay a part of the international accord.

At the United Nations atomic watchdog level, director general Yukiya Amano said Iran was under the world’s “most robust nuclear verification regime,” adding that “the nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented.”

Though the agreement between Iran and the G5+1 is currently in limbo, there is still optimism that the US congress will investigate the deal without killing it off completely. This is because, if the deal is out of control, then the global nuclear race will be out of control as well, derailing the international community from driving toward sustainable peace and instead moving toward chaos and wars. This would also bring a high risk of war between Iran and the US if both countries insist on their positions.

:: Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub). Twitter: @politblogme

:: Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in the Column section are their own and do not reflect RiyadhVision’s point-of-view.

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