The president of the United States emphasized his disapproval of the agreement signed between the P5+1* and Tehran aimed at restricting Iran’s nuclear program. He described the pact as a disaster and suggested that it should be torn up.
The tone and content of Donald Trump’s discourse in front of the United Nations General Assembly during the past week has been noteworthy and the focus of a large amount of commentary. Trump, very much in keeping with his personal style, lashed out at those he considers his rivals, namely North Korea and the threat of their nuclear arsenal, Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela and also Iran. In regard to the latter, he emphasized his disapproval of the agreement signed between the P5+1 and Tehran aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear program. The U.S. was previously, under the Barack Obama presidency, one of the principal promoters and signatories of the pact. Currently, however, Trump is ranting against such an agreement, calling it a disaster and for it to be canceled, which is why part of his discourse in the U.N. highlighted his intention to remove the United States from such a compromise, placing emphasis on the malevolent characteristics of the Ayatollah’s regime.
On Sept. 20, the day following Trump’s speech, it was the turn of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to step up to the podium. It was interesting to note that, in contrast to both his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and to Trump, he avoided adopting a bullish attitude, alluding instead to how his country has conquered the world more with its culture and poets than with its guns and bullets. In general, his tone was conciliatory and moderate, not only because Rouhani is viewed as a reformist politician but also because of his self-assurance that, in this particular moment, his position within the world has an important backing. First there are the positive reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency of the U.N. about the Iranian compliance with the commitments they had assumed to destroy what formed part of the structure of their nuclear development.
Second, and no less important, is the consensus between the other signatories of the agreement — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China — which ensures that the commitment is functioning well and keeps the nuclear threat from Iran effectively at bay. Both Federica Mogherini, who represents the European Union in external matters, and the French President Emmanuel Macron have defended it in recent days, insisting that it is the best way of halting Iranian ambitions in that respect. Furthermore, in the last two years, investment and trade with Iran have created new interests in conserving the pact, which is why Trump’s ambitions to cancel it face off against a firm bloc committed to maintaining it. Because of this, even if the U.S. president did leave the pact, it would not achieve much as there would not be the possibility of isolating Iran as was the case in the past under general sanctions.
It also worth pointing out that the relative improvement in U.S.-Iranian relations, achieved in the era prior to Trump, has disappeared. You only have to listen to the declarations of the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered in response to Trump’s speech: “These words were not triggered by a sense of power, but by anger, helplessness, and imbecility; because the U.S. government has become increasingly angry and dissatisfied that plots they initiated several years ago in Western Asia were neutralized … [T]he speech presented by the U.S. president did not make Americans proud. The educated American elite must feel embarrassed for having such a president.”
Faced with that then, it is worth considering how much President Trump believes he can actually break the agreement with Iran, or if this posturing simply constitutes another of his many boasts that he is used to brandishing in order to satisfy his electoral base, which has been wooed with promises that only in a few cases have been delivered.
*Editor’s Note: P5+1 refers to the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members (China, France, Russian, the United Kingdom, and the United States) plus Germany.