Trump must be called out for his bullying tactics
Earlier this week, Iran took another step downgrading its obligations to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and injected uranium gas into centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear plant. The measure was taken in the presence of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors and marks the fourth action by Iran since it began responding to the US’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal last year and re-imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Tehran. This again highlights that US President Donald Trump’s strategy of applying maximum pressure on Iran isn’t working. Washington thought that the sanctions would make Tehran beg for a fresh deal. But it has underestimated the resilience and self-respect of the Iranian people.
Make no mistake, Iran is going through much economic and material hardship. The sanctions have impacted the poorest people in that country, hampered hospital operations and brought much pain to critically ailing patients suffering from cancer and diabetes. But Iran has refused to bend and despite the odds has managed its economy through import substitution. And with the latest reduction of obligation on Iran’s part – which Tehran insists is legal as per Articles 26, 36 and 37 of the nuclear deal that allows it to reduce its commitments – it is the US that is losing bargaining leverage.
Washington pulling out of the nuclear deal was wrong, plain and simple. Tehran had followed ever stipulation asked of it as part of the deal. In fact, the IAEA had approved Iran’s commitment 15 times with no diversion. The nuclear deal itself was the result of negotiations that spanned 12 years and brought the heaviest level of observation on Iran’s nuclear programme. It was even approved by the UN Security Council. Thus, for Trump to walk away from the deal on a whim was unconscionable. On the other hand, his plan to isolate Iran was never going to bear fruit. Iran is bordered by 15 neighbouring countries and many nations don’t recognise unilateral US sanctions. Therefore, completely restricting Iranian trade was never possible.
True, the European INSTEX mechanism to facilitate trade with Iran despite the sanctions hasn’t really taken off. Which is why Iran is asking the European signatories to the nuclear deal to do more to cushion the impact of American sanctions on Tehran. In fact, Tehran has said its latest obligation downgrade is reversible if European partners do the needful.
Taken together, there is no denying that Iran has gone the extra mile in subjecting its nuclear programme to inspections. If any more assurance was required that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear bomb, then Tehran has said it is ready to sign and ratify by the Iranian Parliament an additional protocol that will allow more intrusive inspection of the country’s nuclear facilities at an earlier date than set out in the 2015 deal. Plus, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei would also enshrine a ban on nuclear weapons in law. But this would have to be in return for the US lifting all sanctions on Iran and ratifying the same by the US Congress.
In other words, if Trump is looking for a permanent guarantee of the civilian nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, then he must permanently lift sanctions and return to the tenets of the 2015 deal. This is more than fair. And if Trump doesn’t take up even this Iranian offer, then that would prove there are extraneous factors influencing his policy on Iran – namely Israel and Saudi Arabia. This is because the only real concern that the US can have about the 2015 deal are the sunset clauses that allow Iran to resume higher levels of uranium enrichment. The additional protocol would take care of that. If this doesn’t satisfy Trump, then that simply means he is doing Israel and Saudi Arabia’s bidding who see Iran as a threat to their interests in the Middle East (I will expand on this topic in another article).
The bottomline here is clear – the nuclear deal for Iran was worked out by world powers, including the US, and approved by the UN Security Council, and Iran stuck to every stipulation required of it. Trump for no good reason withdrew from the deal and unilaterally and illegally imposed sanctions on Iran for things that it didn’t do. If international diplomacy is to work and the sanctity of treaties and agreements maintained, then it is the Trump administration that must be called out for its bullying tactics.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.