Rouhani calls Trump’s warnings a bluff

Rouhani

M K Bhadrakumar |

The US President Donald Trump’s speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday has drawn attention to the Iran nuclear deal of July 2015. Will the deal survive? Or, will it perish in a sudden death? Trump said the Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the US has ever entered into. “Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it. Believe me.”

Trump isn’t Barack Obama and he simply lacks the persuasiveness or the moral authority to get the rest of the world to fall in line with the US’ sanctions regime against Iran so long as Tehran scrupulously observes the terms of the nuclear deal

Harsh words, indeed. Meanwhile, the P5+1 and Iran met at foreign minister level in New York on Tuesday. According to European sources, “the meeting included a long discussion” between Tillerson and his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif – although Tillerson publicly maintained that they merely shook hands. In a subsequent interview with Fox News, Tillerson narrowed down the US demand at this point to the so-called “sunset provision” in the Iran deal under which time limits (of varying lengths, such as 10 or 15 years) apply to some of the restrictions put on Iran’s nuclear program.

Read more: Putin promises Tehran of support if US-Iran nuclear deal is scrapped…

Evidently, there is much sophistry in the arguments being preferred, (as explained lucidly by Paul Pillar, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University and in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution in a blog in the National Interest magazine, here.) Tillerson indeed hinted that the issue goes beyond Iran’s nuclear programme. As he put it, Our (US’) relationship with Iran from a security standpoint and a threat standpoint is much broader than that, as is the entire region. 

And we’ve really got to begin to deal with Iran’s destabilizing activities in Yemen, in Syria. The President (Trump) highlighted that today, that under the agreement – the spirit of the agreement, if you want to use that word – but even the words of the preamble of the agreement, there was clearly an expectation, I think on the part of all the parties to that agreement, that by signing this nuclear agreement Iran would begin to move to a place where it wanted to integrate – reintegrate itself with its neighbors. And that clearly did not happen. 

Tehran has all along estimated that Trump is a bluff master and a bazaari at heart. Of course, Iran is unlikely to re-negotiate the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal

In fact, Iran has stepped up its destabilizing activities in the region, and we have to deal with that, and so whether we deal with it through a renegotiation on nuclear or we deal with it in other ways.

Read more: US moves against Iran raise spectre of wider regional conflict

Simply put, the US feels agitated about Iran’s cascading influence in the Middle East and its emergence as the foremost regional power – even surpassing Israel. In turn, Israel, which has lost its military pre-eminence in the Middle East, is counting on the Trump administration (which also has a big contingent of “hawks” on Iran) to push back at Iran’s lengthening shadows, especially in Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza.

One hitch here is that the European Union disfavors a re-opening of the Iran nuclear deal (for whatever reasons.) The EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini made this point quite clear after the FM-level meeting in New York. The EU position is also shared by Russia and China. The point is, Iran nuclear deal is working splendidly well and Tehran is fulfilling to the last word its obligations (which is something even Tillerson admits.)

It is reprehensible that the rogue Zionist regime that threatens regional and global security with its nuclear arsenal and is not committed to any international instrument or safeguard

Unsurprisingly, Iran is furious about Trump’s threatening speech. The chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari (who reports directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei) hit back strongly: Time is now ripe for correcting the US miscalculations. Now that the US has fully displayed its nature, the government should use all its options to defend the Iranian nation’s interests.

Read more: Iran joins China, Russia and Pakistan in rejecting Trump’s Afghan policy

Taking a decisive position against Trump is just the start and what is strategically important is that the US should witness more painful responses in the actions, behavior, and decisions that Iran will take in the next few months.

However, it cannot be lost on Tehran what perturbs the Trump administration most could be the need to re-engage Iran in negotiations relating to regional politics. Significantly, while making an impassioned plea for the raison d’etre of the nuclear deal in his speech at the UNGA on Tuesday, President Hassan Rouhani desisted from touching on options available to Iran:

“The deal is the outcome of two years of intensive multilateral negotiations, overwhelmingly applauded by the international community and endorsed by the Security Council as a part of Resolution 2231. As such, it belongs to the international community in its entirety, and not to only one or two countries.”

The JCPOA can become a new model for global interactions; interactions based on mutual constructive engagement between all of us. We have opened our doors to engagement and cooperation

The JCPOA can become a new model for global interactions; interactions based on mutual constructive engagement between all of us. We have opened our doors to engagement and cooperation. We have concluded scores of development agreements with advanced countries of both East and West. Unfortunately, some have deprived themselves of this unique opportunity.

Read more: The Iran deal is living dangerously despite sanctions relief

They have imposed sanctions really against themselves, and now they feel betrayed. We were not deceived, nor did we cheat or deceive anyone. We have ourselves determined the extent of our nuclear program. We never sought to achieve deterrence through nuclear weapons; we have immunized ourselves through our knowledge and – more importantly — the resilience of our people.

This is our talent and our approach. Some have claimed to have wanted to deprive Iran of nuclear weapons; weapons that we have continuously and vociferously rejected. And, of course, we were not and are not distressed for forgoing an option that we in fact never sought. It is reprehensible that the rogue Zionist regime that threatens regional and global security with its nuclear arsenal and is not committed to any international instrument or safeguard, has the audacity to preach peaceful nations.

Just imagine for a minute how the Middle East would look had the JCPOA not been concluded. Imagine that along with civil wars, Takfiri terror, humanitarian nightmares, and complex socio-political crises in West Asia, that there was a manufactured nuclear crisis. How would we all fare?

In turn, Israel, which has lost its military pre-eminence in the Middle East, is counting on the Trump administration  to push back at Iran’s lengthening shadows, especially in Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza

Rouhani remarked later in New York, “We don’t think Trump will walk out of the deal despite (his) rhetoric and propaganda.” Tehran has all along estimated that Trump is a bluff master and a bazaari at heart. Of course, Iran is unlikely to re-negotiate the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. But below that threshold comes the tantalizing prospect of a (re)-engagement between the top diplomats of the two countries. To be sure, the ice was broken on Tuesday. Notably, Zarif is keeping his thoughts to himself.

Read more: Will an assertive Iran turn out to be Trump’s greatest challenge?

The US and Israel have suffered a strategic defeat in Syria from which they will never quite recover, and would, therefore, want to safeguard at least their irreducible core interests in the post-conflict situation in the New Middle East. The question is, what is it that the US can offer Iran in return? The US is only hurting its self-interests by preventing American companies from doing business in the Iranian market. 

Trump isn’t Barack Obama and he simply lacks the persuasiveness or the moral authority to get the rest of the world to fall in line with the US’ sanctions regime against Iran so long as Tehran scrupulously observes the terms of the nuclear deal. Having said that, from the Iranian perspective, a full-bodied integration with the international community has always been the strategic objective of its foreign policies.

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.

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