Will Trump’s move on Iran bring focus on denuclearization?

Sabena Siddiqui
Sabena Siddiqui
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Since pulling the plug on the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the US has put the EU, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany in a quandary regarding why it ended. Showing no clear road-map since then, Trump has his European allies on nail-biting edge while China and Russia have taken the news with some equanimity.

Right now, the US is on one side while all the other signatories are trying to resolve the crisis in their own way. Having entered the agreement as sovereign entities, the EU, France, Britain and Germany are trying to salvage the JCPOA and Iran has responded positively by not dumping the deal as yet.

Having gained more experience after dealing with North Korea, maybe the US will focus on lasting denuclearization this time. A major indicator is that Washington expects Iran to “want to make a new and lasting deal” with the US, in the words of Trump.

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The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also offered to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran with the European Union. Upping the ante, the US President said at a cabinet meeting recently that there will be “serious consequences’ if Iran resumes nuclear activity, if it does not then “they’ll negotiate or something will happen.”

Apart from putting economic pressure on Iran to cause a regime change, no other option is on the table yet but considering the new trend towards ‘denuclearization’, this might be the reason for wanting a new agreement.

Having gained more experience after dealing with North Korea, maybe the US will focus on lasting denuclearization this time

Sabena Siddiqui

A threshold nuclear state

According to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran is seen as a ‘threshold nuclear state’, after completing some years under observation it could be permitted to produce nuclear weapons. Restricting the formation of further nuclear states can be the real reason the deal has been dumped.

The US opted out of the nuclear deal and it seems it would not want the deal revised just to impose more sanctions. Does it want to revise the deal just to enforce a more permanent denuclearization of Iran? Such a proposition might not be agreeable to the rest of the parties in the deal which are trying to continue with the original document.

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Enforcing non-proliferation in this manner would not go down so well even with the European Union, which finds itself at a crossroads. The European Union is also arranging a crisis meeting with Iran as soon as possible to save the accord without Washington as a party.

Adding to the anxiety, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has said that Europe has “very limited opportunity”, meaning there is a window of some weeks before it restarts its uranium enrichment program.

Trying to “save the deal” is no easy task as Iran’s economic benefits have to be safeguarded and avoiding stringent US sanctions is the major hurdle as the US Treasury Department expects companies to stop dealing with Iran within the time period of 90 to 180 days.Facing prosecution and massive fines in the US, European banks and business executives would not be let off the leash by Washington.

Calm China

While the European Union and Britain are facing the music, China calmly continues with the deal saying it was approved by the United Nations Security Council. Unmoved by the prospect of US sanctions and an intensifying trade war, for both China and Russia it is business as usual and an increase in yuan-denominated trade is expected.

There are signs that European international companies could use the euro for business dealings and Iran has already switched from dollar to the euro as its official reporting currency. This January, Bpifrance bank had already unveiled a plan offering euro-dominated export guarantees for Iranian businesses to avoid US economic jurisdiction.

Apparently, all the other parties to the JCPOA will continue to keep it live and find ways to overcome any impediments. In this current scenario, pressing for the denuclearization of Iran needs some convincing argument.

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Nevertheless, it is uncertain whether the EU can take the pressure for long as Washington is not going to make it easy. As White House National Security adviser John Bolton has said, “I think the Europeans will see that it’s in their interest ultimately to come along with us.”

North Korea will be the test case now, if the US achieves success in its denuclearization, it might try the same with Iran. At the end of the day, including any clause for denuclearization in the revised Iran nuclear deal can either strengthen US influence or cause its allies to scatter away.
Sabena Siddiqui is a foreign affairs journalist and geopolitical analyst with special focus on the Belt and Road Initiative, CPEC and South Asia. She tweets @sabena_siddiqi.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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