ANALYSIS: To resurrect the Iran nuclear deal or contain the economic storm?

Michael Flanagan
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Iran is careening closer and closer to level of internal unrest that will require an extreme domestic reaction. The economic basket case that is the Iranian economy is dragging its people to public demonstration and protest.

The billions that were to be wrested from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s (JPCOA) activation were intended as a salve for these domestic difficulties as well as providing fuel for the international presence of Iran and its terrorist organizations. The Iranian leadership opted to pay for its foreign entanglements first, leaving the domestic needs for later.


Now, the renewed sanctions after President Trump withdrew the United States from the JPCOA in May of this year has added considerable fuel to domestic fire burning.

No one knows better than the Iranian leadership (political, religious and military) how the past sanctions have brought the regime to this place. The JPCOA had the potential to allow Iran to have domestic tranquility through prosperity. All Iran had to do was to abandon its nuclear program – an expensive vestige of empire that Iran simply cannot afford nor can be trusted to possess.

Sadly, believing that the West was too weak to enforce the JPCOA, Iran flagrantly ignored its requirements under the plan and used the billions pouring into Iran to ramp-up its international terrorism components as well as continuing its nuclear ambitions while leaving the domestic spending needs for later.

The Iranian leadership did not believe for one moment that the West would enforce the deal or return to any form of sanctions.

Then came President Trump

Having learned the lessons of appeasement from the 1930s, Trump made it clear that the Iranian violations of the agreement would not be forgiven or tolerated. He announced the United States’ withdrawal from the agreement and sanctions would be (at least unilaterally for now) renewed.

Immediately after President Donald Trump announced that the United States would pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the JPCOA) Iranian officials responded in anger, shock and forlorn hope instead of the more expected purring of the Persian cat trying to influence the decision. This stance was purely for internal consumption by a people who are about to have some measure of privation return.

On May 9, 2018, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani stated: "It seems that Mr. Trump does not have the mental capacity to deal with issues and the language of force is more effective for this person so that he could face the consequences of his arrogant characteristics. . . ."

The Iranian Foreign Ministry stated: "We are extremely concerned that the United States is once again acting contrary to the opinion of the majority of states and exclusively in its own narrow-minded and opportunistic interests, in flagrant violation of international law.”

IRGC Chief-Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said that the Iranian nuclear deal with the United States will collapse because he believes European parties to the accord will side with Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that there was a "short time" to negotiate with the countries that did not withdraw from the nuclear agreement. "The nuclear deal will continue if we see we can meet the demands of the Iranian people with the cooperation of five countries in the short period.”

President Rouhani added: “Our heroic people will not be affected by this psychological attack. . . . Iran’s economic progress will continue. Our people should not be worried at all.”

These statements are textbook “whistling past the graveyard” – big talk to provide comfort from fear.

Iran has opted to pay for international interventionism, a very expensive nuclear program and to ignore the privations domestically at its own peril. The outlook is not good and the possibility of renewed sanctions – even unilaterally only by the United States – is a frightening economic possibility for a regime so close to the brink already.

The West must acknowledge this situation and prepare. The international question should not be how to resurrect the JPCOA but, rather, how to plan for and contain the storm that is coming in Iran.

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