Iran Nuclear Deal Remains on Life Support

January 24, 2020 by HJ Mai
In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers his sermon in the Friday prayers at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. Iran's supreme leader said President Donald Trump is a "clown" who only pretends to support the Iranian people but will "push a poisonous dagger" into their backs, as he struck a defiant tone in his first Friday sermon in Tehran in eight years. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

WASHINGTON – The Iran nuclear deal has been on life support for nearly two years since President Donald Trump decided to unilaterally withdraw the U.S. from it. The remaining signatories of the deal, which is officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, have since been scrambling to save the landmark agreement. 

But recent events in the Middle East along with Europe’s inability to provide Iran with a clear path forward might be its ultimate downfall.

Shortly after its implementation, former U.S. President Barack Obama lauded the Iran deal as a model for nuclear diplomacy.

“This is a success of diplomacy that hopefully we will be able to copy in the future,” Obama said in 2016.

The JCPOA has severely restricted Iran’s ability to obtain a nuclear weapon in exchange for sanctions relief.

But any hopes the Obama administration had for the deal’s longevity went out the window when Trump won the election in 2016. Getting the U.S. out of the deal was a key issue in Trump’s presidential campaign. 

While on the campaign trail, he repeatedly said that withdrawing from the Iran deal would be his No. 1 priority. In his speech to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC in March 2016, Trump said he would “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.”

And once in the Oval Office, he kept his promise.

“I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said on May 8, 2018. “I will sign a presidential memorandum to begin reinstating U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime. We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanctions.“

In response, Iran along with all other signatories, reaffirmed their commitment to the deal following the U.S. withdrawal.

Earlier this month, however, Iran reversed course and announced it will suspend all its commitments under the nuclear deal.

The announcement came only days after a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian Force Quds commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iraq further escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Iran’s decision to abandon its obligations under the nuclear deal seems to provide confirmation that Europe lacks power and influence in today’s geopolitical world.

“European countries need to work together with the U.S. if they want to be effective, because they have limited military clout; they have limited geopolitical clout; and they tend to privilege consensus, diplomacy and negotiation,” Federica Bicchi, associate professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, told The Well News. “So when faced with a set of controversial decisions by the U.S., the Europeans end up muted and sidelined. They might be seething in their dissent, but they’re not in a position to respond to the U.S.”

The U.K., France and Germany launched a formal complaint against Iran for not meeting its commitments under the nuclear deal, however, they did so under heavy pressure from the U.S. 

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer confirmed media reports that the Trump administration threatened to impose a 25% tariff on European auto imports if the three nations refused to activate the dispute mechanism.

With their decision to trigger the JCPOA’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism, the three nations initiated a process that could ultimately see the United Nations reimpose sanctions on Iran, which very well could be the final nail in the coffin of the agreement.

“The [European Union] is an incredibly powerful idea and initiative, but if nobody wants to drive it then it becomes an empty vessel,” Bicchi said.

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