Ending Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement gives the insecure child president psychological satisfaction. The rest of world will pay the price.by Mark Fitzpatrick / May 9, 2018 / Leave a comment
US President Donald Trump’s violation of the Iran nuclear accord, by re-imposing nuclear sanctions, is the most disastrous decision of his troubled presidency to date. Taken for no good reason, his careless act undermines US leadership and credibility, alienates allies, invites retaliation, undermines the nuclear order in the Middle East and makes reaching a denuclearisation deal with North Korea all the more difficult.
The Iran accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was working well. Iran was holding faithfully to the limits imposed by the deal, and allowing inspectors to carry out whatever verification they deemed necessary. Eleven quarterly reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency documented this compliance.
Why conservative Americans were unhappy
The main complaint raised against the deal by conservative Americans was not that the limits were inadequate, but that their duration was too short. Addressing this demerit, British, French and German diplomats worked out a plan with State Department counterparts to de facto extend the limits without renegotiating the deal.
They also found a way to meet Trump’s demand for constraining Iran’s missile program and for confirming inspectors’ rights to visit military sites.
Trump would have none of it, however—no matter the entreaties from bon amie Emmanuel backed by the other European leaders. It is now clear that no improvements would have satisfied Trump. He wanted the deal dead.
A transatlantic rift
The most immediate damage is to transatlantic relations. Alliance discord will be worse than during the rift over the Iraq War because this time not a single European state is lining up with the US president. In fact, other than Iran’s arch enemies in the Middle East, no state anywhere supports Trump’s decision.
The Europeans will now seek to adopt and improve legal and financial measures to protect their firms from US extraterritorial sanctions. But out of business prudence, most of these enterprises will not want to engage with Iran anyway. Europe’s efforts to save the deal until the day when America returns to its senses thus will likely go for naught.