Donald Trump will denounce Tehran’s failure to respect the agreement regarding its nuclear program. It is a crude message that could have dramatic consequences.
Barring any surprises, in a few days Donald Trump should declare that Iran is not respecting the international agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful purposes. He’s lying. The American president is fine-tuning things by alluding to a violation of the “spirit” of the text drafted in Lausanne in 2015 at the end of an epic diplomatic marathon. It’s absurd. For two years, all signatory parties in the compromise have been upfront; Tehran has, point by point, fulfilled its commitments according to the set schedule. The number of centrifuges and the quantity of enriched uranium have been reduced as planned. Iranian nuclear sites are accessible to international inspections as agreed. Who can attest to this? The U.N., through its International Energy Agency on the basis of a resolution, China, Russia, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and, until now, the United States.
At the forefront of this issue, at the beginning of the week during a meeting with the signatories, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini reiterated: Iran is fully complying with the terms of the deal. She added: “We cannot afford, as an international community … to dismantle a nuclear agreement that is working and delivering.” This is exactly what most American diplomats and military are saying. Could it be any clearer?
This looks like a recipe to provoke war. Is that what the president of the United States wants?
Trump has tried to justify the questioning of what he calls “the worst deal” in American history through numerous accusations: Tehran is pursuing its ballistic missile program, continues to support Hezbollah and Hamas — organizations Washington classifies as “terrorist” — and remains an actor in the destabilization of the Middle East. All of this is not entirely false. But it has nothing to do with the agreement in question, nor even with its spirit, which is to stop an eventual nuclear military program and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. No more, no less. It’s an agreement that the international community hasn’t quite managed to sign with North Korea, which is currently the main danger for nuclear proliferation.
Moreover, Trump and a few Republican hawks are worried that the agreement only lasts for 10 years. That’s correct. Does this mean that it is pointless, that it must be renegotiated as of now? French President Emmanuel Macron seems ready to take a few steps alongside Trump to put pressure back on Tehran.
Marginalization of the United States
If Trump manages to convince Congress to overturn this agreement by voting for sanctions against Tehran in the name of Iran’s supposed failure to respect commitments; if Europeans then tear themselves apart in deciding whether or not to adapt to this strategy; it would be the end of this century’s greatest success in multilateral negotiations. By offering victory to Iranian hawks, Trump will have reopened the path to a nuclear crisis with Tehran. Washington would subsequently lose all contact with an essential interlocutor for the stabilization of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Saudi Arabia and Israel would applaud. Russia and China would establish themselves a bit more as the powers capable of building bridges in the region.
This will precipitate the marginalization of the United States, and as a result the marginalization of Europeans, in the Middle East. It will finally be futile to convince Pyongyang to commit to freezing its nuclear program. This looks like a recipe to provoke war. Is that what the president of the United States wants? I’m afraid it seems likely.