So, the inevitable has occurred and for whatever reason, right or wrong, Donald Trump has chosen to walk away from the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement that his predecessor, Barack Obama together with leaders of Russia, China, the United Kingdom, Germany and France had signed up to. Bottom line, there may be trouble ahead and this decision by Donald Trump could well backfire.
Buttressed by his acolytes, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, the decision by Donald Trump to walk away from the Iranian nuclear agreement will have serious repercussions for all of us including those such as the UK, Germany and France who have rightly decided to stay on-side with the deal whilst at the same time working toward improving it.
No one is denying that Iran’s interference in the affairs of other Arab states including the bloody civil war in Syria and in Yemen is wrong and that this should be ignored but America walking away from a deal that was designed to and as far as we are aware, achieved an end to Iran’s programme of enriching uranium in return for the removal of most western sanctions is wrong. To end an agreement with insufficient reason or hard evidence that the other side has broken commitments made without so much as an attempt at diplomacy is Donald Trump playing with fire and the peace of the world.
True, Iran holds no respect for the US and has never done so. Can something be salvaged out of this apparent mess? Yes, I believe that it can and will have to. After all, the decision by the US to include in sanctions not only US goods sold to Iran but all those of other countries using some US parts will not go down well in Germany, France or the UK. Back home in the US while Donald Trump pushes the notion of this being an example of ‘America First’ there are those that worry that mitigating circumstances of re-imposing sanctions on Iran could adversely impact on the US economy. Add this to the trade spat with China and I guess there are those economists and analysts in the US who will be marking the potential for US growth being somewhat less than they thought a week ago despite seemingly good job numbers.
Signed in 2015 following years and many rounds of negotiations that led to an interim agreement in 2013 and what would eventually become the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) sane men and women all over the world breathed a sigh of relief. Not Israel of course but those members of the Security Council that signed up and that supported the Iran Nuclear deal fully understood the dangers of Iran becoming a nuclear power and the consequences that this would have for other countries on the Arab peninsular.
Yesterday I reminded of the anniversary of VE day and this alone brought to mind the importance of alliances with our friends. The US or should I say its president, has broken ranks with its allies for no good reason. Trump was in no mood to listen to advice and not least from German and French leaders and a British Foreign Secretary. We may regret that but this is where we are – America first even before peace.
As a US friend of mine wrote to me yesterday, “Only fools step away from friendships and do not seek to solve those niggling problems that sometimes lead to transient unfairness, cross words and misunderstanding. Those men and women who are either authoritarian or aspire to being so, put themselves first….America first, Republican first, their businesses first, their base first…and so on”
Like some latter day Egyptian Pharaoh, it seems to me that Donald Trump is seized not with what is even best for America but moreover, an intent to erase the memory of his predecessor Barack Obama and all and perhaps everything that he had done. Is this leaders, politics or sheer madness. I will go with the latter. Trumps determination chisel away at anything in Obama’s name, removing all trace of law, legislation and agreements that are associated with him is not only disgraceful, disloyal but in the process it has made the world a far less safe place. We should fear that apart from that which exits with Israel, the US president places no value whatsoever on friendships that are not of immediate value to him. I am bound to wonder whether he has intellect or imagination to anticipate the potential worst of outcomes.
So it is and yet, as my friend also reminds me, he is immunized – he is somewhat invulnerable because he controls the resources of the most powerful nation on earth – so long as no asymmetric and disruptive changes to the natural order emerge. God help us!
So what now? Iran’s leaders have reacted sensibly and they will wait and see what the impacts of US withdrawal are. President Hassan Rouhani is content for now to send his Foreign Minister to the remaining signatories of the deal and bide his time whilst at the same time warning that if the deal cannot be salvaged Iran would restart its programme of uranium enrichment.
That a bolder deal with Iran may well be needed is not at issue and the real point is that whatever its weaknesses, this deal is far better than no deal at all.
Following the announcement by Donald Trump that sanctions on Iran would be re-imposed by the US the US Treasury was quick to confirm that sanctions would target industries mentioned in the deal including Iran’s oil sector, aircraft manufacturers – this includes not only Boeing but also Airbus due to the latter’s use of some US made parts – and also attempts by Iran to buy US dollars.
Strictly speaking the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran should not, other than instances mentioned above, impact on exports to Iran by the UK, Germany, France, Russia and China. But the reality is that it will and I note that US National Security Adviser, John Bolton is already reported to have said that European companies doing business with Iran will have to stop doing so within six months or face US sanctions on them. Such remarks do not even pay lip service to those that are supposed to be US allies and friends. This is America First and Only in action.
CHW (London –9th May 2018)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785