Iran deal exit no help to US regional strategy

By Li Zixin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/10 20:08:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT



US President Donald Trump on Tuesday pulled the country out of an international nuclear deal with Iran and said that he would re-impose economic sanctions on Iran. It may accord with US political correctness but the results will probably go against the original US strategic goal.

The Iranian Revolution in 1979 overthrew the pro-US Pahlavi dynasty and established the Islamic Republic of Iran. Since then, the US and Iran have been in endless confrontation. For nearly 40 years, the US has attempted to undermine Iran's political system with harsh sanctions. Cooperation between the US and its allies in the Middle East has been based on what they call the "Iranian threat" and the US has also repeatedly persuaded its traditional ally - Europe - to adopt the same stance and impose sanctions against Iran.

Former US president Barack Obama, who advocated a nuclear-free world, made efforts to solve the Iran nuclear issue. But for conservatives, the deal was not in line with US political logic on Iran or the realistic interests of the US and its allies in the region. More importantly, the deal failed to change the Iranian government's political hostility toward the US and Israel.

After Trump took office, the US re-assessed the Iran deal. According to the latest US National Defense Strategy, one of the US goals in the Middle East is to avoid the region being dominated by any power hostile to the US. Iran became the Trump administration's main target. Trump's criticism on the deal is not about its implementation, but its content. He thought the deal not only fails "to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions," but it also fails "to address the regime's development of ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads." He called for no expiry date as the deal did not address Iran's nuclear activities beyond 2025.

After the deal, with sanctions lifted, Iran's economy began recovering with its energy trade. Iran enhanced its financial and military support for its allies: the Syrian Bashar Assad government, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Yemen's Houthi forces, challenging the US and its allies' security interests. By re-imposing sanctions, the US seeks to force Iran to abandon its ambition of spreading influence.

All may not proceed as the US expects. Inside Iran, the moderate and reformist Hassan Rouhani government prompted the Iran nuclear deal, boosted the domestic economy and improved relations with the West. However, Rouhani's allegedly moderate style has upset Iranian conservatives. The US withdrawal provided more excuses for Iranian conservatives to blame the Rouhani government. With increasing external pressure, Iran's domestic and foreign policy will become harsher toward the US.

Europe is still the most vital backer of the Iran nuclear deal. Washington's European allies pledged to uphold the 2015 Iran nuclear deal despite Trump's decision to pull the US out. For Europe, resolving the Iran nuclear issue and peace and stability of the Middle East concern its own interests. Refugees, energy supplies and economic cooperation are three key topics determining Europe's stance on Iran. Iran can also deal with domestic problems such as a shrinking economy and inflation with Europe's help. Keeping the deal is the best choice for Europe to relieve its concerns and for Iran to realize its strategic development goal. Europe will struggle to maintain the deal.

The author is an assistant research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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