Will Trump's Rhetoric Ruin the Nuclear Deal with Iran?

The US president Donald Trump called Iran “the number one terrorist state,” and a deal on Iran's nuclear program – the "worst deal" that he has ever seen negotiated. In turn, the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that in case of the "nuclear deal" revision by the United States neither Iran nor Europe will begin new talks on the nuclear program. Vladimir Sazhin, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, discussed possible impact of the US-Iran confrontation in an interview with www.valdaiclub.com.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a bilateral agreement between the US and Iran, which can be canceled by either party. JCPOA is an international document, which was legally approved by resolution 2231 of the UN Security Council just a week after the signing. Also important is the position of IAEA, respectable and authoritative international organization, which made a lot of positive steps to ensure the implementation of the plan.

One of the latest IAEA statements confirms that the parties comply with the requirements of the agreement. What can Donald Trump do? He cannot cancel the agreement, it is an international treaty. To exit unilaterally would be too adventurous even for a president like Trump, because the credibility and image of the United States would fall sharply around the world, including the US allies in Europe: everyone who participated in the negotiations and in the conclusion of the nuclear deal (the UK, France, Germany) supported and still support JCPOA. Moreover, almost all the EU member states also support this agreement.

Trump is hardly ready to withdraw the United States from the treaty. However, in the course of implementation the United States is likely to slow down the process. JCPOA is designed for 10-15 years. There is still time, but Trump and his administration can hardly do something serious. In any case there is an interesting point: not only the Trump administration is against JCPOA, but also Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The pressure on the JCPOA implementation will intensify. Even inside Iran there are JCPOA opponents, especially the opposition to the current president Hassan Rouhani. If external enemies of JCPOA motivate their critical attitude to the document by the fact that Iran still has many opportunities to produce nuclear weapons in the future, the internal JCPOA opponents say the opposite: Rouhani has gone too far in the compromises and practically deprived Iran from developing nuclear technology. These forces in Iran are powerful enough.

One year has passed after the beginning of JCPOA implementation, which raised hopes for the rapid growth of the Iranian economy and the development of foreign economic relations. We can sum up the results of how things have changed in Iran and around it.

By the internal debates in the country the opponents of Rouhani and JCPOA can provoke even greater pressure from external forces. In this case even Iran will have to evade the implementation of the deal. This will give the occasion to its external enemies to strengthen pressure.

Although no one is legally ready to withdraw from the deal, the process will be hindered and even stopped. Perhaps Iran will begin to recover the lost time in the nuclear field. This can lead to serious consequences - renewal of sanctions, much more rigid than before. Even the use of force against Iran by the US and Israel is not excluded.

But this can happen only in the event that Iran refuses to fulfill JCPOA. This is unlikely, because, according to all forecasts, Rouhani will be re-elected for a second term in the upcoming elections. Probably, he would meet more difficulties to carry out a "liberal" policy both domestically and abroad. Therefore, hard times for Iran are expected.

If we talk about the current state of Iran-US relations, this means the rhetoric of confrontation. Washington will blame Iran for all the sins, Tehran will blame the US. Such propagandistic ideological war will continue with no serious military consequences for Iran. This state of things - neither war nor peace - will last for some more time.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.