Fears for Iran’s nuclear deal

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Iran's nuclear plant
Iran’s nuclear plant

Iran’s nuclear deal with six world powers is meant to constrain Tehran’s ability to make nuclear weapons for at least 15 years.

As US president-elect Donald Trump and his team of hardline conservatives prepare to take office, there are mounting concerns that he could undermine the agreement during his four-year term by carrying out his campaign promises.

The Republican tycoon-turned politician has made it clear what he thinks of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that was agreed with Iran in Vienna last year.

“This is one of the worst deals ever made by any country in history,” he has said, arguing that it grants Iran too many economic benefits while allowing the country to boost its civilian nuclear programme in the long run.

However, Trump has been less clear about what he wants to do about the agreement that took years to negotiate, variously stating that he would like to scrap or renegotiate it.

Both options would ruin the intricate deal, said Richard Nephew, who was part of the US team that negotiated with Iran.

“In all probability, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is dead in a Trump administration,” said Nephew, who is now a scholar at Columbia University in New York.

Simply tearing the deal up would be difficult, however, as this would create tensions with Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union, the other powers involved in the pact.

Now that Western sanctions against Iran have been scrapped under the agreement, EU countries are keen on rebuilding business ties in oil-rich Iran, which offers Western exporters a promising market of about 79 million people.

Even Iran’s regional rivals have come to see the benefits of the agreement that is meant to make sure that a new nuclear weapons state does not add instability to the Middle East.

“It’s the assessment of the Israeli military and intelligence community – the country that was most opposed to this deal – that acknowledges this has been a game-changer,” outgoing US President Barack Obama has said.

Arab Gulf countries now also back the deal, even though they have tense relations with Tehran, Western diplomats told dpa.

“Rather than a quick dispatch, the real danger to the JCPOA is a slow death, as oxygen is withheld,” Mark Fitzpatrick and Paulina Izewicz at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London wrote.

The Republican-dominated Congress in Washington could undermine the deal by introducing new sanctions, knowing that Trump would not veto such moves, they said.

The government in Tehran has complained that the expected economic boost from the nuclear deal has not materialized as businesses around the world still fear that they will run foul of remaining US restrictions.

Trump’s secretary of state has yet to be named. Analysts and media have pointed at Republican Senator Bob Corker or former UN ambassador John Bolton as candidates.

While Corker is known as a dealmaker who navigated the Iran deal through Congress, Bolton is a foreign policy hawk who has publicly opposed the deal with Iran.

Incumbent Secretary of State John Kerry has tried to boost trade with Iran by talking to the business community to ease concerns.

Whoever succeeds him is unlikely to lobby for a deal that is one Obama’s few foreign policy achievements, to say the least.

Denying Iran the economic benefits that the deal offers in return for curbing its nuclear programme could lead to a vicious circle.

Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rowhani is seeking reelection in May, running against conservative political factions that are opposed to the nuclear deal and that are looking for opportunities to undermine it.

The elections in the US and Iran pose a risk for the nuclear deal, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano has told dpa.

“Implementation of the agreement is still fragile,” he has told dpa, stressing that any small breaches of the deal could have large political consequences, given the situation in Washington and Tehran, Amano said.

Whatever Trump has in store, Iran has made clear that a drastic step by the US would force Tehran to boost its enrichment of uranium – a material that can be used in nuclear weapons.

Iran is prepared “even for the worst of scenarios,” Iran’s chief nuclear spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said.(dpa/NAN)

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