President Trump must decide by 12th May whether to stick with the agreementby Ali Ansari / May 5, 2018 / Leave a comment
The prospect of President Donald Trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, or “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” on 12th May—when he has to consider whether he will renew the sanctions waivers—is causing understandable consternation in European capitals, where there has been a concerted effort to persuade the United States to stay in.
The agreement was reached after two years of detailed and at times tedious negotiations, and resulted in restrictions being placed on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for a gradual lifting of those sanctions pertaining to the nuclear programme.
Trump has of course never hidden his disdain for the agreement and his vocal opposition and continued prevarications over whether to issue the necessary waivers have already served to undermine the efficacy of the agreement and to place it on life support. Nonetheless, his political theatrics—ably supported in this regard by the Israeli Prime Minister—have also served to disguise the flaws in the agreement which even European partners agree need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Leaving aside for the moment Trump’s bluster, the handling of the agreement itself has been founded on two false assumptions that need correcting. The first has been to see the agreement as an endgame rather than a stage in an ongoing process. The agreement as structured is at heart a confidence-building measure; a process to be tested, refined and built upon. This is true of any number of diplomatic agreements which usually contain ambiguities that are ironed out as the agreement is implemented. The JCPOA contains an arbitration mechanism to deal with such eventualities but such are the sensitivities over the agreement that even talk of a supplementary agreement is treated with apprehension and anxiety. The consequence of course is that disagreements are left to fester and a process intended to build confidence actually serves to undermine it.
The second flawed assumption has been the tendency to see the nuclear programme as a cause rather than a symptom of the wider political malaise between the United States and Iran. In focusing on the particular rather than the general we avoid those wider political issues.
With respect to the agreement itself there are weaknesses on both sides that should be addressed and improved though naturally each side has tended to focus on those elements that adversely affect its own interests. The west therefore has focused on the question of missile technology, which was left intentionally—though with hindsight…