After about two weeks, American President Donald Trump will have made up his mind and decided to either withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran or remain committed to it in some form. This decision will have many repercussions that are very important.
However, before we discuss what this decision will mean, we must understand the circumstances surrounding it. French President Emmanuel Macron who supports the deal with Iran came to Washington in hopes of convincing Trump not to abandon the deal. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose stance is similar to Macron’s, will also visit Washington for the same purpose.
The aim is not to cancel JCPOA as some think, but it is to renegotiate Iran’s commitments in it. The harsh economic sanctions which had subjugated the Iranian regime were all lifted although they were imposed against Iran’s dangerous practices towards the region’s security and US interestsAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Before them, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has an opposing point of view was in Washington. Meanwhile, the Iranians are trying to pre-empt Trump’s decision, which will be announced on May 12, via speeches and statements that convey different messages of intimidation and enticement.
The US stance
The Iranian regime threatens Trump by threatening the security of the region, Israel and the US while at the same time it “whispers” that it’s willing to make concessions. There’s no doubt that Tehran is very worried and scared of Trumps’ decision, and had made promises to make enticing concessions such as releasing American prisoners in exchange for keeping the deal.
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The US’s stance, under Trump’s administration and which he has repeatedly stated, is that he’s against the deal which the former administration of Barack Obama negotiated and signed three years ago. Trump believes that even if the deal suspended enrichment for military purposes, it strengthens Iran’s military hand in the region as it’s become a massive destructive force in Syria and Yemen, it militarily expanded in Iraq and its militias became active in Lebanon and Gaza.
Trump believes that the agreement is unfair to his country and harms its interests in the region, and above all it paid huge sums of compensatory money to the Iranian regime, of which some are Iranian funds that were frozen after the revolution.
Renegotiating the deal
The aim is not to cancel JCPOA as some think, but it is to renegotiate Iran’s commitments in it. The harsh economic sanctions which had subjugated the Iranian regime were all lifted although they were imposed against Iran’s dangerous practices towards the region’s security and US interests.
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The deal only addressed the nuclear aspect which Tehran compensated for by increasing its military and terrorist activity in the region. Iran has become more dangerous and hostile after the agreement was signed. It’s responsible for the death of more than half a million people in Syria and for the failure of the central government in Baghdad. It toppled the legitimate government in Yemen and funded the war there against Saudi Arabia.
Despite all this, the possibilities of reaching a middle-ground solution with Tehran is very likely due to the intervention of Europeans, who were very careful in formulating the deal and signing it, and who are very concerned about keeping the deal in place.
The Europeans are not really concerned about curbing Iran as they do not have the military capability to deter Iran on their own and they are not enthusiastic about defying it. They think that halting its nuclear military program is a great achievement on its own and that Middle Eastern countries can solve their problems on their own despite the human and financial price.
This is the European’s perspective. They’re now afraid that Trump will scrap the deal which they worked five years to finalize.
There are still two complementary stances, the Gulf and Israeli ones. Riyadh sees the deal as incomplete and that it puts trust in a regime with a bloody history instead of setting conditions that guarantee proper behavior.
Meanwhile, Israel criticizes it because it is temporary as it freezes Iran’s nuclear activity only for ten years instead of putting an end to it. Later on, Israel began to see that the deal also failed in linking this activity to Iran’s regional behavior.
If Pompeo becomes the secretary of state, and he’s about to be appointed, then we will have a good duo: Pompeo himself and John Bolton who was appointed National Security Advisor. Both men have a clear vision that opposes the deal but this does not necessarily mean that they will succeed in pushing Trump to scrap it amid the several opposing pressures.
There are three possibilities: scrap the deal, accept it as it is or make limited amendments to it through Europe and upon Iran’s approval.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.