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Henry M. Robert

A stimulus for Tehran’s nuclear ambitions

What threat does US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal pose?
16 May, 2018 - 12:29
REUTERS photo

US President Donald Trump said the other day the US was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal because that country is the main sponsor of terrorism in the world. “We have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie,” the Voice of America quotes the US president as saying. Trump emphasized that he had made this decision after consulting with allies.

The White House occupant has more than once threatened to pull out of this deal. What is known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was signed in July 2015 in Vienna by the US, China, France, the UK, Germany, and Russia, on the one hand, and Iran, on the other. Iran agreed to phase out its nuclear program in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions.

EUROPE’S REACTION

President Emmanuel Macron of France told DW and ARD that his American counterpart’s decision was a mistake. In his opinion, Europeans must observe the agreement and the latter should be broadened and supplemented. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, assured Tehran that they would continue to meet their commitments. This week representatives of three signatories – Germany, France, and the UK – will discuss the deal’s future.

IRAN’S REACTION

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said that Washington had thus shown that it does not honor its pledges. “I have ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to be ready for action if needed, so that if necessary we can resume our enrichment on an industrial level without any limitations,” the BBC quotes the Iranian leader as saying. At the same time, he promised: “If we achieve the deal’s goals in cooperation with other members of the deal, it will remain in place.”

EXPERT OPINIONS

Steven Pifer, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and ex-US ambassador to Ukraine, tweeted: “This unwise decision will isolate US, cede diplomatic high ground to Tehran, & create new opportunity for Russia to drive wedges between US & Europe.”

Michael McFaul, a professor at Stanford University and a former US ambassador to Russia, pointed out in Twitter: “The United States and our allies could have pushed back on Iran’s ballistic missile program and Iran’s support for terrorists WITHOUT pulling out of nuclear deal... Reagan did it with the Soviets. Trump could have done the same with the mullahs. Oh well.”

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham supported Trump’s decision. He twitted: “The agreement has always been fatally flawed when it came to controlling Iranian nuclear ambitions. With the mere passage of time, the deal allows Iran to enrich and reprocess uranium – without limitation – on its march toward a nuclear weapon. This would have required our Arab allies to develop a nuclear weapon of their own to counter the growing Iranian threat.”

“THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST IS CLOSELY LINKED TO UKRAINE’S NATIONAL SECURITY”

The Day requested an expert to comment on the US president’s decision and say what attitude Kyiv should take in this question.

Viacheslav SHVED, head, Department of the History of Asian and African Countries, Institute of World History, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine:

“Firstly, what testified to Trump’s firm decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal was the appointment of two outright ‘hawks,’ John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, as national security advisor and Secretary of State, respectively. He formed a team aimed at a direct confrontation with Iran.

“Secondly, what prompted Trump to do so was rejection of the decisions the former president Barack Obama made. As it is Obama who initiated the 2015 agreement, this document is terrible by Trump’s logic and must be replaced by something entirely new.

“Thirdly, the position of Saudi Arabia and Israel also encouraged Trump to make this decision. The leadership of these countries firmly and decisively supported the US president’s actions. They did their best to make him make this decision. For example, a few days ago Benjamin Netanyahu made public the information of Mossad, the intelligence agency of Israel, that Iran continued developing nuclear weapons secretly. In March, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, said at the beginning of his visit to the US that as soon as Iran gained access to nuclear arms, Saudi Arabia would do the same as fast as possible. And today [May 10. – Ed.] Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has confirmed this position.”

IMPACT ON the MIDDLE EAST AND THE REST OF THE WORLD

“The situation is being seriously aggravated. Practically all the European allies of the US, including France, the UK, and Germany, as well as the EU leadership, have spoken for keeping this treaty intact. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said the agreement is multilateral and approved by the UN Security Council’s decision and if one country quits it, this does not mean that it is no longer in force.

“Israel’s latest missile strike on the positions of Iranian troops and Syrian air defense installations confirms that Israel is bursting to fight. For example, the influential Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post published an article on May 8, which describes in detail the future scenarios of war between Israel and Iran.

“The situation is rather complicated, but there is no need to dramatize it. For Trump’s decision to pull out of the agreement and impose new sanctions is not to be fulfilled immediately after he announced it. Under the US law, such decisions enter into force 90 or 120 days after they have been announced. In other words, the world community and global and regional centers of power and politics have 3-4 months to find a compromise solution.

“I think diplomatic efforts will be made to find a compromise solution of the problem of the Iranian nuclear program and preservation of peace in the Middle East.”

CONSEQUENCES FOR THE U.S. AND EUROPE

“There is a tendency towards an oil price hike. So, as soon as hostilities begin in the Middle East, which provides up to a third of oil supplies to the world market, this may have a negative effect on the economy of the US and especially the EU countries. This is why they are trying so hard to keep the nuclear deal intact at any cost.”

CONSEQUENCES FOR UKRAINE

“This situation in the Middle East is closely linked to Ukraine’s national security. For we and the Middle East are part of the Mediterranean – Black Sea – Caspian area. What is going on in the Middle East has an impact on us.

“This situation is particularly dangerous because it is unfurling on our southern flank. It may happen that the US will throw its resources to this region in order to solve the Iran problem, which will create favorable conditions for Russia’s President Putin to try to step up his actions in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

“This situation may also have an impact on Muslims in Ukraine. It is very important for all of our ministries, committees, and agencies to see to it that clashes between various political forces in the Islamic world, including between Sunnites and Shiites, do not affect the situation of Ukrainian Muslims.

“Another important factor for us: with due account of dangerous tendencies in the Middle East, Ukraine must not get into what looks like a new version of the Kolchuha radar scandal. I will remind you that the latter erupted on the eve of the US intervention into Iraq and cost Ukraine quite dear. And now that Ukraine is receiving up-to-date armaments from the US and other Western countries, any provocations can be expected from the Russian aggressor.”

WHAT CAN BE EXPECTED FROM IRAN?

“Iran is saying it may resuscitate its nuclear programs. The Americans believe, not without a reason perhaps, that domestic tension is on the rise in Iran. The country saw a wave of discontent in January: dozens of Iranian cities were full of manifestations, when people demanded that Iran revise its foreign policy and drop its great-power ambitions about Syria and other Arab countries. I think the US is intensively mapping out an Iran strategy that focuses on fomenting domestic disturbances so that the Iranian people themselves put an end to the Ayatollah regime in some way.”

By Natalia PUSHKARUK, The Day

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