All indicators point to the fact that President Trump is determined to scrap the nuclear agreement signed by the P5 +1 with Iran. The most important sign in this regard is Trump’s sacking of Rex Tillerson from his position of US Secretary of State, and his appointment of the head of the CIA Mike Pompeo to the post. It is well known that Pompeo is a strong figure, familiar with Iran’s intentions and expansionist goals. He realizes how important this issue is for the security of US allies in the region. If the United States unilaterally drops out of the agreement, as is expected, it would entail the termination of this agreement.
Through this agreement, Iran was trying to improve its financial and economic conditions. As is well known, the US has almost complete control over monetary matters of the world. Thus, no Western company would dare hold any transaction with Iran, unless it is certain it has the approval of the United States.
Tehran’s limited options
In this context, one might ask: What options do Iranians have if the United States declares its withdrawal from the agreement? The answer is very simple: nothing but an escalating rhetoric threatening to destroy Israel, but these shall be empty words that’ll not change a thing.
As is known, Iran is currently facing a very difficult economic crisis. Waves of popular protests have hit the country more frequently in recent months. It is my assessment that the theocratic regime will be left with no option but to accept new US conditions seeking restricted Iranian intervention in neighboring countries as well as curtailment of Iran’s development of ballistic missiles. Even though Iran has openly opposed fulfilling US demands, it will eventually have to come to terms with them. Towards the end of the war with Iraq, even Khomeini had to yield to similar conditions and had said that it was like drinking from the poisoned chalice.
Some analysts believe that if the United States would drop out of the nuclear agreement, Iran will create trouble, upset the security applecart and threaten the stability of the US allies in the region, particularly in Iraq, where for purely sectarian reasons, Iran has many cards that it can exploit against the United States. I don’t believe Iran has the same influence in Iraq today as it used to during the rule of its well-known agent Nuri al-Maliki. It is my view that the current Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has developed a popular base in Iraq after having purged the country from ISIS. His popularity will pave the way to his re-election as prime minister.
Iraq needs assistance of Gulf states, not Iran
Abadi has on many occasions shown that he distances Iraq from Iran, or from what he calls the policy of axes. Iraq currently needs to reconstruct what was destroyed in the war and this can only be achieved with the support of the Gulf Arab states. Iran cannot salvage its own deteriorating economy, so it’s in no position to help reconstruct Iraq. Besides, appealing to a sectarian sentiment no longer affects the Iraqis, be they Sunni or Shiite, as it used to do in the past. Iraqis today want to live a secure and stable life, not a life ravaged by wars, terrorism and sectarian strife which almost fragmented the country and subjected people to tragedies for the past thirty years.
To conclude, the United States’ withdrawal from the nuclear agreement has become certain. The mullahs have no options to confront this decision. In order to address their worsening domestic economic issues, they must accept Trump’s amendments to the agreement or face a popular backlash at home that would give a jolt to the Khomeinist regime. If people starve, ideological nourishment will not be enough for them to survive.
This article was originally published in Al Jazirah.
Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmd