By Eisa Kameli

A recipe for disaster or a path towards World Peace?

August 18, 2018

New York - On May 8, 2018, President Trump officially announced his decision to exit the “Iran Deal” known as the JCPOA – Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – that was struck between Iran and P5+1 in 2015. The U.S. President’s view of this deal, considered from his very initial comments as a presidential candidate, served as a great indicator of the new U.S. administration’s broader change of course with regards to the conduct of diplomacy that would be sought under his leadership; a so- called direction that needs to be dealt with in a precise way.

 Ever since he took office, Trump has continuously proven his commitment to getting results that are as closely aligned with the promises he made to the American voters as possible. In doing so, he has demonstrated a lack of reverence for any kind of international framework that he deems as standing in his way. The disregard for the WTO’s regulations and standards, the unilateral and hasty negotiations with the North Korean Leadership, Kim Jong Un, and the non-compliance to the Iranian deal witnessed from the United States in the past two years serve as cases in point.

 With regards to Iran, the U.S. administration has repeatedly stated that the president is deeply skeptical of the potential of the JCPOA to prevent its government from obtaining a nuclear weapon and gravely threatening its closest allies within the region and beyond. The President himself has never shied away from calling the deal “terrible” or “ridiculous.” Their underlying theory seems to lie on the premise that no two nations can make a deal together on one issue and, meanwhile, resume fighting on other, possibly related, fundamental sources of rift.

 While the Obama administration fervently believed in and was proud of the verification mechanisms that were set out within this agreement, this latest outlook of the new administration rests on the conviction that as long as the atmosphere filling the gap between the two parties is filled with tension, the level of verifications set out is essentially irrelevant and what matters at the end of the day is either side’s commitment to getting the upper hand as the conflict goes on. Such argument, while rejects current model of peaceful settlement of related disputes, is unable to offer a serious and real alternative initiative.  

 Implications on Iran

In accordance with the White House’s goal-oriented and absolutist perspective of foreign policy described above, on August 6, 2018, the administration announced the reimposition of the first part of the sanctions lifted under the nuclear agreement with Iran. Under the new sets of sanctions, the trade of U.S. dollar, Iran’s Rial, gold, automotive parts and technology, aircraft, and industrial metals are prohibited from being conducted with Iran. At the same time, starting from a few weeks prior to this date, the president began sending multiple signals, through his press conference as well his widely-followed Tweets, about his openness to engage in discussion with the Iranian officials.

 Iran, on the other hand, considered these calls for meetings nothing more than a ruse by Trump to boost up his administration’s legitimacy and gain followers around the world in his call for sanctions. With the distrust between the two nations being at its highest, the prospects for a new round of negotiations to begin between Iran and the U.S., as the White House has asked for are bleak, at least in the short-term. This new status quo, while seemingly successful in entangling Iran with internal problems so much as to discourage them from their overseas ambitions, will have consequences in the long run that will make peace in the Middle East even less attainable.

 The US unilateral sanctions just started to kick in and countries as well as international companies around the world will most likely opt for leaving Iran’s markets as opposed to having to leave that of America – which is what will happen if they do not abide by the sanctions. On August 7, 2018 Trump, in his tweet, followed the course that George W. Bush suggested a decade ago. Trump said “anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the United States.” All the while, the Iranian people will begin having an increasingly harder time gaining access to basic essential products such as food, medicine, and medical devices as indirect consequences of the financial restrictions imposed on those doing business with this country.

 The Trump doctrine of exerting “maximum pressure” and maintaining hard rhetoric until the target country is willing to give in to his demands appears to overlook an important element within the Iranian culture. While it may seem that these increasing hardships will put pressure on the Iranian Government both from within and from the international community to re-initiate talks with the U.S., it is also quite likely that, in accordance with the ideology of resistance that a large portion of the country so enthusiastically cherishes, Iran pursues its path with added conviction. The inhumane, internationally recognized illegitimate and unjust nature of these sanctions can well contribute to the alienation of a whole new generation of Iranians towards the West, particularly the United States.

 The fact is that there is a serious question about the effectiveness and productivity of a policy to exert maximum pressure on Iranians because of the changing nature of reasons and causes of US arguments after withdrawal from the JCPOA. Now, the people of Iran rightly blame the US administration for its non-compliance and insistence of pursuing deep enmity and that leads them to be more cautious in dealing with immoral US standards that has recently been witnessed. Moreover, Iran now is in a better position internationally than the Trump administration. The international community recognize that Iran has been honest with the IAEA and fully committed to the provisions of the JCPOA. In contrast, as Iran’s Ambassador to the UN stated in an article published by the Guardian (August 8, 2018), the Trump administration’s sanctions against Iran are a clear breach of UN Security Council resolution 2231 which underlines “promoting and facilitating the development of normal economic and trade contacts and cooperation with Iran” as an essential part of the JCPOA and calls upon all member states to support its implementation, including to ensure Iran’s access in areas of trade, technology, finance and energy, and refrain from actions that undermine it.

 In addition, Iran’s upholding of its citizens’ human rights for which the Trump administration seems to be concerned with will not improve under the new wave of sanctions and rising hostility. The new status is likely to prompt Iran to gradually shift from a more democratic government to a kind with a national economic emergency. This can potentially lead to the further undermining of Iranians’ human rights.

 Accordingly, the inherent contradictions that exist in President Trump’s pursuit of negotiations through force is helping the Iranian Government in reunifying the masses against the United States and obtaining more support from the international community. The Trump administration appears to be confident that this set of sanctions matched with the second set that is to be implemented in November which will be targeting Iran’s oil industry and Central Bank will be sufficient to bring them to the table. However, given the inherent problems of the sanctions and the lack of international will and determination to support the U.S., the prospects of the administration reaching its objectives are very unclear.

 It is now time to wait and see how each side will endeavor to tip the scales in their own favor as they try to prove their might and righteousness. With the European Union, China and Russia all the more committed to respecting the nuclear deal, can the United States gather enough forces to make the sanctions effective? Does the United States have any concrete plans to gain the trust of the Iranian people and convince them of the benefits that a new deal with the new administration will ensue? On the other hand, has the Iranian Government prepared itself for the upcoming sanctions? Do they possess enough resources within their country and with their allies to counter the effects of the sanctions? Are the Iranian people ready for another round of an economic marathon with the United States?

 These are questions that will be answered in the upcoming months and years. The fact remains that unless both sides come up with new approaches to find a way to resolve the outstanding issues, the stagnant and, occasionally, downhill state of affairs between the two countries will remain as is. Accordingly, the Trump administration, in its alleged pursuit of pragmatic solutions, needs to take lessons from previous U.S. administrations when it comes to Iran and initiate a revision of its preconditions and goals such that they are based on mutual respect and common interests, including going back to the JCPOA. Without such measures, the future of the Middle East will become even more obscure.
 

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