Trump's withdrawal from Iran deal meets with widespread disapproval, worry

Source:Xinhua Published: 2018/5/9 15:53:10

US President Donald Trump did not quite surprise the world with his announcement to withdraw from the historic Iran nuclear deal. Besides giving a cold shoulder to such a unilateral move, most nations and regional blocs are now worried about the negative influence his decision could have on peace and denuclearization prospects in the war-torn Middle East.


In a televised speech at the White House, Trump announced the fallout, adding that he will not sign the waiver of nuke-related sanctions against Iran.

Rather, he vowed to re-impose sanctions lifted under the accord against Tehran and inflict punishments like secondary sanctions on nations that have business links with Tehran.

Trump repeated his rhetoric against Iran and the deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), saying it had failed to prevent Iran from developing missiles and nuclear weapons and supporting terrorism in the region.

The United States will impose "the highest level" of economic sanctions on Tehran, said Trump, adding that "any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States."

Later, the White House announced that Trump had "directed his administration to immediately begin the process of re-imposing sanctions related to the JCPOA," and "the re-imposed sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran's economy, such as its energy, petrochemical, and financial sectors."

"Those doing business in Iran will be provided a period of time to allow them to wind down operations in or business involving Iran," it added. "Those who fail to wind down such activities with Iran by the end of the period will risk severe consequences."

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also said in an announcement that "sanctions will be reimposed subject to certain 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods. At the conclusion of the wind-down periods, the applicable sanctions will come back into full effect. This includes actions under both our primary and secondary sanctions authorities."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington will work with allies to find a "real, comprehensive, and lasting" solution to the Iran nuclear issue.

In a press briefing soon after Trump's announcement, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said that "the only sure way to get on the path of stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons and delivery capabilities is to get out of the deal."

The hawkish diplomat added that "the lesson that America learned, painfully, a long time ago ... is we only negotiate from positions of strength. It was a lesson that the last administration did not follow."

Bolton also said that Washington has begun consultations with Europe and other allies on the timeframe for starting a new agreement.


Trump's decision was widely anticipated, and international society has so far given a cold shoulder to his move.

European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said later that Europe will stand by the nuclear accord with Iran.

"We expect the rest of the international community to continue to preserve it, for the sake of collective security," she said. "I am particularly worried about tonight's announcement of further sanctions."

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday voiced "deep concern" over Trump's decision, calling on "other JCPOA participants to abide fully by their respective commitments under the JCPOA and on all other (UN) member states to support this agreement."

France, Germany and Britain regretted the US decision to leave, as French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Tuesday that the move would put the nuclear non-proliferation regime at stake.

European Council President Donald Tusk also said that the US move "will meet a united European approach."

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Moscow is deeply disappointed by the US withdrawal and there are no grounds for such a move.

The ministry added that Washington's action undermined international trust, and was once again at adds with the opinion of most countries.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Washington's decision was "an unfortunate step."

The JCPOA was an important step to prevent proliferation, the ministry said in a written statement. "Turkey has always defended the stance that Iran's nuclear program should be resolved through diplomacy and negotiations and has made intensive efforts in this direction."


There will be many repercussions of Trump's decision, experts said.

Iran Bremmer, president of US-based think tank Eurasiagroup, said that Trump's pulling out of the Iran deal "will be his biggest slap in the face to date to US allies."

The imperfections of the deal were "not an argument for blowing up the JCPOA ... That's an argument for strengthening it," the US expert said. "The likelihood is that nuking the JCPOA will undermine, rather than strengthen, attempts to limit the Iranian threat."

Richard Nephew, a senior research scholar at Columbia University, told Xinhua that Trump will find that it's very hard to "get plan B to work" after leaving the deal.

"There's only so far as they (Iran) may be prepared to go, in addressing US concerns," Nephew said, explaining that with Iran possibly restarting its nuclear program, security concerns will be raised in the Middle East with countries mulling their own nuclear development.

In the eyes of Peter Harrell, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a lawyer who advises on sanctions compliance, "rebuilding economic pressure after Washington pulls out from the JCPOA would be an even greater challenge, given international opposition to the US withdrawal and scant international support for renewed sanctions."

"Trump would face formidable challenges after withdrawing from the JCPOA," he said, "perhaps the biggest diplomatic challenge Trump would face in reinstituting sanctions on Iran is convincing buyers of Iranian oil to reduce their purchases."

"Withdrawing from the JCPOA would be a strategic mistake for Washington," said the expert. "It would allow Iran to resume its nuclear program and raise the risk of a future military conflict with Tehran ... The result would be a major setback for US strategic interests."

Philip Gordon, senior fellow in US foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, said on Friday on the think tank's website that Trump's refusal to waiver nuke-related sanctions on Iran would eventually lead to the full collapse of the JCPOA "possibly within weeks or months."

Gordon, who helped negotiate the agreement in former President Barack Obama's administration, also said that the US move "could lead to major tensions with US trading partners ... if the United States hits them with sanctions."

"These are all, however, minor issues compared to what a game-changing step not renewing sanctions waivers would be," he said. "It may prove more difficult to assemble an international sanctions coalition now than it was then, since the United States will be blamed for killing the agreement. Before long, the United States could face the dilemma that the JCPOA was designed to avoid: allow the program to continue to expand in the absence of international monitoring or use military force to stop it."

"The United States is unlikely to successfully re-engage Iran diplomatically for the foreseeable future, as the Iranians will view any breach of the JCPOA as a clear indicator that diplomacy with America doesn't pay off," said Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, and Ariane Tabatabai, a senior associate with the Proliferation Prevention Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"America will lose leverage over both Tehran and our international partners, leading to a weakened sanctions regime that will fall short of imposing enough pain to alter Iran's course," they said. "In particular, America walking away from the deal will result in a domestic political climate in Iran that overwhelmingly opposes the resumption of any negotiations with the United States."

"For their part, US partners in the Middle East, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia, will grow increasingly anxious and call for action. And eventually the United States will find itself having to choose between tolerating a nuclear-armed Iran or taking military action to thwart its nuclear development. It would be the height of folly to go down this path instead of continuing to implement the JCPOA," they said.

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