North Africa, West Asia

Relinquishing the ‘moral high ground’ to Iran

Any move to dismantle the nuclear deal will only relinquish the moral high ground to Iran, leaving the US as the isolated party.

Mehrdad Khonsari
12 October 2017
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Donald Trump at a rally against the Iran Nuclear Deal on the West Lawn of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on Wednesday, September 9, 2015. Picture by Ron Sachs/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.President Trump’s belligerent approach in muddying the water with Iran is yet another ploy to remain true to populist promises he made to right wing audiences – at home and abroad - in the course of his 2016 campaign for the White House.

However, despite all his rhetoric, what remains obscure at the end of the day is what is to be gained by ‘decertification of the nuclear agreement’ and how such a move is likely to chastise Iran while enhancing US or western interests?  

The truth of the matter is that since the ratification of the nuclear deal in July 2015, and despite having complied with all its obligations, Iran has continued to suffer from persistent US obstructions that have essentially prevented international banking and financial institutions from actively participating in what is generally believed to be the world’s largest foreign investment market. Hence, all ‘antics’ aside, the only real difference in US position vis-à-vis Iran is that while the Obama administration made promises that it did not keep, president Trump intends on passing the buck to Congress so that it can then re-impose the kind of robust measures, which the Treasury Department under his predecessors had never removed.

What is even more unclear is how exactly wiil the pursuit of such gratuitous belligerency, which could potentially result in the cancellation of the nuclear agreement, benefit the US, its allies and the cause of non-proliferation at a time when all parties are engaged in a serious crisis over international security with North Korea. Trump’s message is clearly in contradiction with positions enunciated by all senior military officials as well as his key cabinet members who have spoken on the record about the need to honor the commitments which the US has made in conjunction with Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany to the nuclear agreement that has also been endorsed by the UN Security Council.   

Moreover, Trump’s actions in this regard will not even satisfy regional players such as Israel or Saudi Arabia who see this empty and inconsequential gesture on the part of the US President as a ploy for not living up to the kind of expectations he had created in advance of his election. In the case of Israel, such a ploy that is incapable of making any material difference to Iran’s overall strategic disposition in the region in the short to mid-term, is hardly any compensation for not moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem or openly validating Israeli settlement policies in the occupied territories. For Saudi Arabia, Trump’s ‘bad mouthing’ of the Iranian regime in the absence of any direct military action against Iranian targets, falls way short of the kind of US support that would help resurrect their fortunes from the downward spiral of their bankrupt policies on Yemen and Qatar, while Iran consolidates its position in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. 

There is no question that Trump’s exacerbation of a situation that hinders the flow of capital and investments needed for economic reconstruction into Iran will seriously affect the lives of millions of ordinary Iranians who had hoped that on the back of the nuclear agreement, the road would be paved for further agreements with the West that would assist Iran’s complete rehabilitation and reintegration into the world community.  

Sadly the Iranian people’s overwhelming support for the re-election of Hassan Rouhani in the recent presidential election in face of hardline elements bent on frustrating his moderate and progressive agenda, is being rewarded by policies and pronouncements that enhances the position of only those who want to emulate the North Korean model in dealing with the US.

In the final analysis, any move to dismantle the nuclear deal will not have the support of world public opinion or that of any of the other major signatories to that agreement. It will only relinquish the moral high ground to Iran, leaving the US as the isolated party.

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