IRAN AND THE ART OF THE DEAL

by Gunnar Eigener

The US President, Donald Trump, has announced that the US will pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran much to the dismay of all those involved and many other countries around the world. The deal was viewed by Trump as ‘the worst deal ever’, possibly an overstatement since Iran surrendered 97% of its enriched uranium stockpile and limited to installing at a maximum 5,060 centrifuges, making the production of a nuclear weapon impossible. Still, time limits were placed on these and other elements of the deal, meaning that in 15 years, Iran could have begun its nuclear programme again. While the JCPOA can, and should, be viewed as a successful deal, it is another example of not dealing with the root cause of the problem, which is the part Iran plays in propping up terrorist organisations and brutal regimes worldwide.

The news from the US was greeted by anger and utter contempt in most places with the obvious exception of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Boris Johnson, the UK Foreign Secretary, made a last-ditch appeal via the US President’s favourite show, Fox & Friends, to encourage Trump to stay in the deal. All failed, and those involved in putting the deal together started looking at what decisions to take.

Yet all actions should be questioned. Germany and France’s reaction to Trump’s decision is likely to be more a result of the business that it will lose with Iran rather than being altruistic. (Volkswagen and Airbus stand to lose several billions alone). Saudi Arabia is constantly seeking to undermine Iran as they jostle for influence in the region, and stands to gain from an oil prospective. Barrel prices are lingering around the $70 mark, and with Iran facing sanctions and thereby reducing the amount of oil it sells, Saudi Arabia will be able to pick up the difference, pushing prices closer to $85 per barrel which is what the Kingdom needs if it is to fulfil its far-reaching economic vision.

In order to appease the different countries and organisations involved, the US stepped back from its pursuit of narco-terrorism

In the background, and away from prying eyes, the Iran deal presented a different kind of problem. In order to appease the different countries and organisations involved, the US stepped back from its pursuit of narco-terrorism. As a result, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamist, and Iranian-backed, political and militant party, has been able to rise to the top of the narcotics business in the region and has spread across the globe, connecting through sympathetic countries such as Venezuela. With considerable amounts of money laundered through the US, a number of US agencies began to investigate and found a well-financed and connected network operating. But, under former President Barack Obama, the US Justice Department denied the agencies the opportunity to file charges against individuals and banks involved in the business. A fantastic article in Politico can be found here, detailing more about this.

Israel, long the target of Iranian rage and violence, will take any opportunity to reduce the harm it could cause even though the proof that its PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, provided was mainly made up of old news and facts long established. Nevertheless, Israel has more cause to see Iran held back than any other country in the region.

Trump has remained fairly consistent in maintaining his campaign promises so this move should not have been a surprise and the other countries involved in the JOPCA should have been better prepared. His ‘America First’ policy has always demonstrated the willingness to push the interests and needs of allies aside in pursuing what Trump believes the US needs to become a ‘great country’ again. And once more, politicians act incredulously, unable to understand why Trump won’t listen to them. Because Trump isn’t a politician is precisely why he won’t listen to them and maybe that’s a good thing.

No matter how much Trump’s decisions have divided people, no matter how every decision he seems to make looks like it will only bring more disruption, that he acts completely differently from how other politicians expect him to almost works in favour of a situation. Under Hillary Clinton, it is unlikely that the status quo would have changed. The US would have maintained its stance with North Korea and while just six months ago, most people thought Trump was going to begin a war with North Korea, now he will do something that no other President has done: sit down with a North Korean leader to discuss nuclear disarmament. How will it turn out? Anything is possible right now, but what is happening is progress that hasn’t occurred before – however unintentional or unplanned.

We are used to seeing countries extend sanctions that affect only the citizens, not those responsible and using the situation to further their own agenda. But we are also used to seeing leaders like Trump lambast a deal, scrap it but offer no alternative. Iran is very different from North Korea, a region with a longer, more volatile history and many more countries who have a stake in the outcome. Countries in the future will be more careful going into a deal with the US, as the possibility is now that the US will not honour its side of the bargain. With a State department woefully lacking in experienced staff, diplomacy has become the path less travelled with the Trump administration.

Still, all should not be considered lost. Iran has said it is committed to the deal and the EU and China are looking for ways to continue without the US. This will be hard but not impossible, and while it will remain a stark reminder for the future that the US will not always be the pillar of support the world needs it to be, at least others might learn to stand on their own two feet.

Featured image US Dept of State

 


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