US-Iran Nuclear Deal: Prospects And Challenges In The Trump Era

Reuters photo



Saliha Khalid


On October 13, 2017 Donald Trump avowed to decertify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the US-Iran nuclear deal of July 14, 2015, this destructive foreign policy having serious repercussions for regional and international security. Trump was disgruntled with Iran’s compliance to the deal, all other signatory states, IAEA and Israel intelligence agency however affirming Iranian acquiescence to the deal.

Trump averred Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization that would cause upheaval and frost their bilateral relations. Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Foreign Minister of Iran, disclosed that this decertification would not result in the abstaining of this deal. To Trump this decision would prompt ambiguity and a tantalizing effect amid arms control watchers and will undoubtedly undermine security.

Trump’s refusal to certify the treaty would provoke Iran to rejuvenate its nuclear weapon quest. Trump criticized this deal because it has deficiencies in addressing Iran’s role in supporting Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, in addition to the development of a ballistic missile system.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in his recent parliament speech, asserted that “We have built, are building and will continue to build missiles, and this violates no international agreements,” because this missile pursuit is for Iranian defense. This deal has the potential to halt the Iranian nuclear weapon quest by 2030. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also acknowledged the adherence of Iran to the deal, but despite this Trump was still impelled to hastily emanate a regime to re-impose sanctions on Iran that were lifted as a part of this deal.

Trump furthermore had reservations that the aforementioned deal incited site inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to scrutinize the Iranian nuclear facilities after a 30 days adjournment, instead desiring immediate access to the aforesaid sites. Trump pulling out of the deal would isolate the US from its allies and give Iran an opportunity to reenact its nuclear weapon development program as North Korea did.

If Iran in future developed and matured its arsenal then the credibility of the US and ability of the international community would be questioned, as well as the risk of curbing and halting the development of Iran’s nuclear weapon program; the list of states thereby continuing who develop their nuclear weapons capability.

If the American Congress is successful in abstaining the US-Iran deal and imposing sanctions on Iran, it would then be difficult for Iran to resolve any future bargaining with the US. American allies and partners would also raise the question on America’s trustworthy status as an international leader. Agreements are crucial for the economic interest of America but if this trust is shaken it would harm America’s ability to progress and accomplish its interests. If the US backs away from this multilateral deal then there is the probability that America’s friends and allies would not be able to trust their words, as would be the case with their adversaries who would likewise be impotent to trust. America’s super power status would therefore be at risk and undermined.

The joint declaration of UK Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron was conveyed later on the same day, elucidating their commitment to the deal because it is in favor of their shared national security interests and would be implemented by all sides. For them, this deal is the fruit of thirteen years of diplomacy and has the likelihood of bringing stability and cooperation in the region.

The foreign policy chief of the EU also expounded her support for the continuation of a robust deal, its potential dismantling bringing serious implications to the security and stability of the region. Iran did not breach the deal but Trump’s announcement provided Congress a period of 60 days to decide the fate of the deal and the decision on reimposing lifted sanctions on Iran.

Trump’s decision was greatly praised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, encouraging the US President for taking a bold decision of the deal’s decertification. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) also praised Trump for his resolute strategy and aggressive policy towards Iran. Previously the KSA supported Iran deal but presently is appreciating Trump because “Iran had exploited the economic benefits of lifting sanctions and used them to continue to destabilize the region, especially through its ballistic missile development program and support of terrorism in the region, including Hezbollah and the Houthi militias in Yemen.”

Iran’s response to Trump’s statement demonstrated that they would “stick to the deal within the framework of international law” if it continues to benefit from it. “However, if one day our (Iranian) interests are not met or other sides refuse to abide by the commitments they should know, Iran will not hesitate; will give them a fitting response.”

Trump’s reservations over the deployment of ICBMs by Iran and Iranian refusal to consider any amendment whatsoever had agitated the US President to decertify this deal. But this is not the proper mechanism to handle the situation. Diplomacy is the indispensible constituent of American policy makers to proceed their interests and this diplomacy and negotiation must be continued in future. Otherwise, Trump’s stance towards decertification will impact its medium and long term interests.

Trump is unequivocally interested in negotiating with Iran to cease its ballistic missile program, abandon its nuclear weapon development program and halt its support to international terrorist organizations, but Iran is not in favor of new negotiations. However, if the US terminates the deal or reimposes sanctions on Iran, this will undermine regional security and heighten the arms race amid regional actors.

Saudi Arabia’s statement of October 30, 2017 about extracting uranium domestically to enrich its nuclear power program to gain self-sufficiency in developing atomic fuel is evidence of this. Though this decision is for peaceful exploration, it also has the potential to transmute into weapon-grade uranium enrichment in the imminent future, when the US-Iran deal terminates and Iran rejuvenates its nuclear weapon development quest. This scenario would therefore destroy the strategic balance between regional stakeholders.





Saliha Khalid

Saliha Khalid is pursuing her Masters degree in Defense and Diplomatic Studies from Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi.

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