M K Bhadrakumar |
The US President Donald Trump’s statement on Friday regarding Iran turned out to be high on rhetoric but lacking in substance. Simply put, Iran can learn to live with it, as things stand. Prima facie, Trump ‘decertified’ the Iran nuclear deal – that is to say, he refused to certify that Iran is fulfilling its commitments under the agreement.
On the other hand, it is an action that falls exclusively within the domain of the relevant US law and has per se nothing to do with the implementation of the Iran deal. The point is, Trump has not torn up the agreement. He has instead tossed the ball into the court of the US Congress, leaving it to the lawmakers to impose sanctions against Iran (which would effectively undermine the nuclear deal.)
Tehran will be open to the idea of a “constructive dialogue” with the Western powers on issues of mutual security. Interestingly, Iranian statement has reiterated that “Iran will not be the first to withdraw from the deal
But then, the likelihood of the Congress imposing sanctions (or assuming the political responsibility to destroy the Iran deal) is also very low. Trump probably knows it, too. And, without a re-imposition of sanctions, the nuclear deal is not in any jeopardy.
Read more: Iran’s President hits back at Trump: US Allies reject America’s “unilateralism”
So, what has been Trump’s game plan? First, his tirade against Iran – even recalling the hostage crisis in 1980 – shores up the traditional concerns of the Republican Party regarding Iran’s role in the Middle East and appeases the Israeli lobby. Second, Trump has taken one more step to fulfill his pledge to undo the legacy of his predecessor (after having scuttled the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the Paris accord on climate change.)
Third, Trump probably calculated that his brinkmanship – stepping up to the line but not killing the nuclear agreement – would enable him to rally the US’ European allies to a joint platform to pressure Iran to rein in its missile program and to moderate its regional policies. The firm stance was taken by the European Union – and UK, France, and Germany, in particular – in support of the Iran nuclear deal has proved to be the clincher. The US faces isolation in the international community if it abandons the nuclear deal.
Read more: Rouhani calls Trump’s warnings a bluff
The statement offered cooperation to the US in engaging Iran in constructive dialogue to work toward “negotiated solutions” to the concerns raised by Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional activities
An extraordinary joint declaration by the heads of governments of UK, France, and Germany underscored that preserving the nuclear deal “is in our shared national security interest.” Having said that, the statement offered cooperation to the US in engaging Iran in constructive dialogue to work toward “negotiated solutions” to the concerns raised by Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional activities.
In sum, US’ European allies have suggested a twin-track approach – on the one hand, preserve the nuclear deal while on the other hand independently address “our collective wider concerns” regarding Iran’s foreign and security policies. The Iranian Foreign Ministry has reacted to Trump’s statement, meeting rhetoric with rhetoric. Evidently, Tehran understands that Trump has left the nuclear deal untouched and the chances are that the agreement may remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Read more: Chaos of the Trump era is never-ending
Tehran will be open to the idea of a “constructive dialogue” with the Western powers on issues of mutual security. Interestingly, Iranian statement has reiterated that “Iran will not be the first to withdraw from the deal, but if its rights and interests in the deal are not respected, it will stop implementing all its commitments and will resume its peaceful nuclear program without any restrictions.”
M. K. Bhadrakumar has served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings as India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001). He writes extensively in Indian newspapers, Asia Times and the “Indian Punchline”. This piece was first published in Indian Punchline. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.