Tehran’s gamble on a single, cohesive European stance that will help it withstand US pressure failed within 48 hours, following a shift in Europe’s position, which came a day after US President Donald Trump announced his country's new strategy in dealing with Iran.
Softening European position
On Sunday, Europeans resorted to a language closer to the rationale of bargaining with Washington over the crisis regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran, agreeing on common points between them and deferring the controversy till the time the US Congress reaches a clear American position on the nuclear deal in two months. Iran should view these developments as a sign of weakening in the stance taken by Britain, Germany and even France over its earlier ambivalence regarding separation of the deal with Tehran’s behavior in its region. This became evident in the joint British-German declaration that underlines that “they agreed on the need to continue the international community's response to Iran's destabilizing activities in the region, and discuss ways to address concerns about Iran's ballistic missile program.”
In spite of Europe’s apparent leaning towards Tehran, President Trump has continued to put pressure on all parties. On Monday, Trump said that “there could be a total cancellation of the agreement; it is a real possibility.” He added that the new phase after the cancellation can be “very positive”. In fact, he has thrown the ball in the Congress’ court, leaving American lawmakers with the burden of making the right decision about the future of the nuclear deal.
The room for Iran’s maneuvers is narrowing while US terms and conditions are expandingMustafa Fahs
Signs of new escalation
The US Congress is expected to continue to try and please all parties. Its members appear convinced that the United States must abide by international agreements so that they are not accused of not respecting signed agreements. However, it is no longer certain now that the US Congress will uphold the nuclear deal as it exists today and may even push for amending some of its problematic clauses with a new mechanism for monitoring Iran’s compliance. The US Congress may press for the implementation of additional protocol agreed by the Iranian negotiating team in the Geneva talks, which allows the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect all of Iran’s military and civilian installations without prior authorization. All these facilities will be under the control of UN inspectors, who will observe all of Iran's nuclear activities both directly and indirectly.
It is impossible for Tehran to agree to the US demands to grant the inspection teams of the IAEA freedom of movement on its territory and will not hesitate to take hard decisions in defense of its national sovereignty and shall obstruct Washington, which wishes a repeat of its Iraqi experience following Saddam's 1991 defeat. The Baathist regime was forced to open all its installations to international inspection teams, which eventually even inspected Saddam's palaces and his private chambers under the pretext of searching for weapons of mass destruction. The fact that Tehran could not accept these terms and that the Trump administration is likely to enforce them increases the likelihood of the crisis escalating.
Iran’s options narrowing
In such a scenario, Washington will have enough reasons to justify its annulment of the nuclear deal before the international community and to initiate further measures against Tehran. For its part, Tehran will try to embarrass Washington in front of the international community by rejecting the harsh conditions that undermine its national pride at a time when the regime is itself struggling to control the country internally and is going through its worst existential crisis since 1979. The United States has redefined its relationship with Tehran, by listing a book full of conditions against it, making it difficult to differentiate between what is possible at the nuclear level and what is acceptable at the regional level. These measures have been taken in order to stop Iran from turning into a new North Korea.
The room for Iran’s maneuvers is narrowing while US terms and conditions are expanding, while Europe’s prospects for bringing about a settlement appear difficult, given the shift towards a direct confrontation in the conflict between Washington and Tehran for the first time since the establishment of the theocratic system. The nature of this conflict is described well by the Lebanese journalist Khairallah Khairallah, who says that the United States has rediscovered Iran and the most important thing in Trump’s speech is that it the US is now dealing with Iran as a whole and this has put the nuclear deal in its proper framework.
Political Activist at Lebanese Civil Coalition, writer and journalist, Creator and Editor-in-Chief at Masarnews. He tweets @MustafaFahs.