By: M.A. Saki & Ali Kushki 

Abrogating nuclear deal ‘politically costly’ for Trump: expert

December 24, 2016 - 13:41

TEHRAN – Although President-elect Donald Trump can intensify concerns over the future of an international deal between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S., in one way or another, it would be politically “costly” for him to abrogate the pact, Masoud Zamani, an international law expert and academic, told the Tehran Times.

Under the 2015 deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran accepted some limits on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions reliefs.
 “It will be politically very costly for the U.S. president to abrogate the deal very explicitly,” Zamani said.

 Having said that, there are at least three possibilities presenting themselves to the future Trump administration for taking a course of action.

In what follows the full transcript of the interview has been given.

Q: In his campaign speeches, now President-elect Donald Trump raised the perspective of pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran. Are the remarks simply a political posturing aimed at the domestic audience or signs of a serious intention to question the nuclear deal?  
A: There is a procedure in the JCPOA that makes it possible for the U.S. president or any other parties to the JCPOA to circumvent its obligations. That procedure is called the snapback procedure. Unfortunately that was one of the deadliest mistakes that the Obama administration made when it came to the issuance of the resolution 2231. Thus, In terms of international law, the Trump administration will face little difficulty in abrogating the JCPOA. However, given the huge time and energy that the parties involved have put on finalizing the JCPOA, and the insistence that the Obama administration and other parties to the JCPOA have made on the importance and authenticity of the deal, it will be politically very costly to for the U.S. president to abrogate the JCPOA. Such a possible course of action will indeed backfire and puts the Trump administration in an extremely isolated position. So, basically we have three routes here and it’s possible that the Trump administration will take one of these routes.

Such a possible course of action will indeed backfire and puts the Trump administration in an extremely isolated position.
The first route is that he will not abrogate the JCPOA explicitly but he will take a hostile approach and tone to the pact and he will give an implicit green light to the U.S. Congress to impose more sanctions upon Iran. Those sanctions can be based on non-nuclear excuses. The JCPOA does not explicitly prohibit non-nuclear sanctions. However, it puts a very clear stress on the normalization of relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and other members to the JCPOA.
This is not in direct contradiction with the terms of the JCPOA but it is definitely against its spirit and its very raison d'etre.
The second route is that he will try to renegotiate the deal. That’s what Trump's advisors have said to be a viable alternative in the close future. On this note, the Trump administration will persist in the mistakes of his predecessor and thereby advancing his case on the value of renegotiating the agreement. But that proposition does not appeal at all to the other beneficiaries of the JCPOA, not to say the least, because they spent an incredible amount of time and energy to what they thought would be the best deal. Here again, the idiosyncrasies of the future Trump administration will most probably place the U.S foreign policy in a secluded corner.
The third route is that President-elect Trump will wait a little bit more to find an excuse to the effect of arguing that the Iranian side has violated its obligations under the JCPOA. By doing this, he will make an appearance of keeping the moral upper hand in the game. If one is determined to evacuate the deal of its effect, it is not hard to come up with easy excuses to do so. For example, slightest hints in Amano's reports on any little deviation on the Iranian part can do the job. That’s another possibility and we have to be very cautious when it comes to this possibility. I mean nobody shall assist the unpredictable Trump administration on his quest to tear down one of the most remarkable achievements of diplomacy and dialogue in the 21st century. Here, the classic Iranian tactfulness can come to do wonders and beat the abhorrent language of threat and brute force.  


Dr. Masoud Zamani holds a PhD degree in international law from the University of Nottingham and is a lecturer of international law. 

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