It isn’t really an unexpected thing to see happening. It isn’t coming out of the blue either. Discarding Iran nuke-deal was a central part of Trump’s presidential campaign, and the momentum now being built to undo the deal is only a logical culmination of what he had argued for almost a year ago. The US is now going to review Iran’s performance since the deal’s conclusion, and the reviewer is going to be the US envoy to the UNO, Nikki Haley. It is not difficult to imagine the perceptions Nikki Haley is carrying as she sets herself to do the task. Not only is she predisposed to viewing Iran as an “enemy” of the US, but also thinks that Iran is not a ‘trustworthy’ country. Her predisposed perceptions were fully exposed on July 27 when Iran launched a rocket that can deliver satellites into orbit. At that time, she was reported to have said, “The issue with Iran always comes back to mistrust. Iran’s widespread support for terrorists tells us we can’t trust them. Iran’s breaking its obligation on missile testing tells us we can’t trust them.”
Within this predisposed perception is also evident another crucial reason why the US is moving towards a review of the deal with a view to discarding it. It isn’t Iran’s violations of the deal per se; for, the agreement does not make it binding on Iran to end its ballistic missile programme, nor is any other country accusing Iran of hard violations; rather it is Iran’s role in Syria that has discomforted the US, as also its allies in the Middle East, to a great extent. As a matter of fact, Iran’s role in Syria against the US sponsored “jihad” is something that defies all expectations the US had on its ability to restrict Iran through financial sanctions. Iran has invested a lot of money and men in Syria not simply because they are allies, but also because Iran knows that Syria might turn out to be the gateway to Iran’s ultimate destruction at the hands of the US and Saudia supported “jihadi rebels.” Hence, Iran’s billion dollar war of resistance.
In this regard, Nikki Haley, who is a member of Trump’s cabinet, is going only to review the deal in a way that reinforces what Trump himself has been saying all along and continues to reiterate in unequivocal terms. On August 11, Trump said again that Iran was not complying with the terms of the deal and could face consequences for violations. “They are not in compliance with the agreement and they certainly are not in the spirit of the agreement in compliance, and I think you’ll see some very strong things taking place if they don’t get themselves in compliance,” he went on to say. Needless to say, Trump is preparing to build the momentum to declare Iran non-compliant even before the review has taken place. Could the said review then expected to be impartial?
The review is one of the ways the American president is going to use to push the US out of the deal, and it has already informed its allies to be prepared for this eventuality. According to a report published in New York Times, the US president is expecting to get options for how to get out of the deal, or look for ways to re-negotiate to include in it aspects of Iran’s missile program and its role in the region. But this option has not invoked much interest in him and he has reportedly asked his advisers to get back to the “drawing board” to prepare a plan to blow up the deal within two months.
While the US allies in Europe have not expressed an explicit agreement with the Trump administration’s possible exit from the deal, Britain, France and Germany did join the US in condemning Iran’s latest test and called it “inconsistent” with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231.” The resolution had been adopted in 2015 to endorse a nuclear agreement between Iran and six other countries, including the three European states. But the resolution does not prohibit missile or rocket launches by Iran. The resolution merely “called upon” Iran to refrain from activities related to ballistic missiles “designed to be capable of” carrying nuclear warheads.
The Trump administration is, however, not willing to accept the limits imposed by the deal. To cut Iran short in the region, the US and its (Arab) need to clip Iran’s military strength, of which Iran’s missile program is an essential aspect. As such, the emphasis the US is putting isn’t simply on Iran’s non-compliance but also on the mythical existence of places all over Iran where it is “suspected” of developing nuclear weapons. The excuse sounds familiar and resonates well with the claims the US made when it was moving towards attacking and destroying Iraq back in 2003. The rhetoric thus coming out of the Oval office seems to be a cut-and-paste from the road to the Iraq War.
While there is hardly any doubt that Russia and China will oppose the solitary way the US is seemingly walking on to get out of the deal, the crucial question for the US to consider is: will Europe fully comply with the US policy? Does Europe, already facing frequent terror attacks, have enough appetite to tolerate another war on its doorsteps?
Not only is Europe aware of the fact that Iran is not really violating the deal, but also is familiar with the latent dynamics of the anti-deal politics, roots of which go deep into the Gulf and Israel. The US and its Arab allies cannot possibly “isolate” Iran as long as the US remains a party to the deal. Although discarding the deal would not in itself lead to Iran’s isolation, it will certainly allow the US to pursue its destabilizing agenda against Iran and involve it in a long-drawn war inside and outside Iran.
On the other hand, it is also possible that “isolation” might come to haunt the US itself. Already Trump has walked out of the Paris agreement, leaving Europe alone to deal with it. Discarding the nuke-deal would further increase policy differences between the US and Europe, and instead solely bind the US with countries in the Gulf and force it to take a plunge into endless and unwinnable wars.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.