Trump to announce new Iran strategy, may decertify nuclear deal

Students on a school trip watch a man dressed as US President Donald Trump taking part in a protest calling for the Trump administration to continue diplomacy with Iran near the White House in Washington, DC on October 12, 2017.   | Photo Credit: AFP

A new American strategy on Iran that President Donald Trump was scheduled to unveil on Friday could heighten tensions in West Asia, as it abandons the focussed approach of the previous Obama administration on rolling back the Tehran’s nuclear weapons programme.

Mr. Trump was expected to announce his intention to not issue a certification mandated by a U.S law, for the country’s continuing participation in the Iran nuclear deal that Tehran and six world powers reached in 2015. The President is required to issue this certification every 90 days, and the next one is due on Sunday.

Then, US Congress will decide

When the President refuses to certify, the onus is on U.S Congress to decide the next course of action. The Congress will get 60 days to decide whether or not to reimpose the sanctions on Iran that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal.

The U.S is abandoning the previous administration’s focus on Iran’s nuclear programme, and its new approach would target “the full range of the Iranian regime’s malign activities,” the White House said in a statement ahead of a speech Mr. Trump was scheduled to deliver on the topic. The statement termed Mr. Obama’s Iran policy “myopic” and repudiated the U.S policy towards Tehran “over the last decade-and-a-half,” that it said “prioritised the immediate threat of Sunni extremist organizations over the longer-term threat of Iranian-backed militancy” in the region. “The Trump Administration will not repeat these mistakes,” the White House said.

Only Trump seems to be against deal

The new “comprehensive” strategy does not immediately upend the deal, but the administration’s intent to decertify it, and to pursue a raft of punitive measures against Iran for other alleged transgressions, could make it unsustainable. Iran has said it will not renegotiate the deal. The other five countries that are party to the deal, Germany, U.K, France, Russia and China have all said the deal is woking fine.

The White House accused Tehran of undermining the nuclear deal, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “..the Iranian regime has displayed a disturbing pattern of behavior, seeking to exploit loopholes and test the international community’s resolve,” out of line with the position taken by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other countries.

Punitive measures in the pipeline

The new Trump policy warns of punitive moves against Iran for “ballistic missile development and proliferation, material and financial support for terrorism and extremism, support for the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people, unrelenting hostility to Israel, consistently threatening freedom of navigation….cyber-attacks against the United States, Israel, and America’s other allies and partners in the Middle East; grievous human rights abuses; andArbitrary detention of foreigners, including United States citizens, on specious charges and without due process.”

American allies in region, Israel and Saudi Arabia, have been calling for scrapping the deal altogether. Following the nuclear deal that removed a range of secondary sanctions against Tehran, Indian private and public sector entities had quickly reached out for opportunities in the country.

The OBOR connection

Increasing cooperation with Tehran is also meant to counter the Chinese-led One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, as Iranian ports of Bandar Abbas and Chabahar could be creating new transportation routes to Afghanistan, Central Asia and Europe for India. Mr. Trump’s Afghan policy, which involves a more unforgiving approach towards Pakistan for its inability to rein in terrorist groups, could also be under strain as more battlefronts open across the region. The Trump administration is already grappling with the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

The new Iran strategy focuses on “neutralizing the Government of Iran’s destabilizing influence and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants,” the White House said, pledging to revitalise America’s traditional alliances and regional partnerships.

One more unnerving move

While the Sunni regimes in the Asian Gulf and Israel would be pleased by Mr. Trump’s move, other American allies, already unnerved by a series of recent moves by Mr. Trump — such as withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and criticism of NATO — could find ties with America under unprecedented stress.

The White House said the United States “has neglected Iran’s steady expansion of proxy forces and terrorist networks aimed at keeping its neighbors weak and unstable in hopes of dominating the greater Middle East.” It said “the Iranian regime has accelerated the seeding of these networks with increasingly destructive weapons as they try to establish a bridge from Iran to Lebanon and Syria.”

Trump won't withdraw from deal: Tillerson

AP reports:

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said Mr. Trump will not withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal or reimpose sanctions, but he will say the pact is not in U.S. national security interests.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly denounced the deal as the worst in American history. The plan would allow Mr. Trump to keep up his criticism of the deal, while also reassuring U.S. allies that Washington will not walk away from it at least not immediately.

Mr. Tillerson said on Friday that Mr. Trump would urge Congress to toughen requirements for Iran to continue to get relief from U.S. sanctions. The administration wants the Congress also to amend legislation to highlight troubling non-nuclear Iranian behavior not covered by the deal.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 11:17:48 PM |

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