The Iranian Problem

The town of Khan Touman in Syria Getty.

By Kenneth W. Gatten III – Middletown, PA – President Trump announced last Friday he would not certify Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the ‘Iran Nuclear Deal’.

The agreement, signed by Tehran, UN Security Council’s five permanent members, and the European Union, is designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Trump has spurned the deal and declared that the White House should instead: “work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws so that Iran’s regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons”.

President’s action does not abrogate the Iran Deal, but it points out U.S.’s intentions to discuss its terms and to consider new regulatory measures. However, skeptics of the JCPOA argue the fact that it allows Iran to continue its ambitious testing of ballistic missiles.

The terms of the JCPOA also encourage a trade between Tehran and the deal’s signatories -a boon for Iran’s economy. Reuters reports that $768 million in production deals, including guarantees to manufacture 350,000 vehicles in Iran, have been signed between Tehran and PSA, the French company who owns Citroen and Renault, both car brands. Also, German conglomerate Siemens has engaged in energy-production contracts with the Iranian power company Mapna. More examples abound.

All this trade has improved Iran’s economy, fueling their destabilizing presence in the Middle East. John Kerry, former U.S. Secretary of State, conceded to CNN after the JCPOA’s codification that: “some of (Iran’s income) will end up in the hands of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists”. Among those supported by Tehran are the Assad regime in Syria and operations like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and the Houthis in Yemen -all called terrorist groups by the U.S.

According to Tim Arango, L.A. correspondent and former Baghdad Bureau chief for New York Times, Iran aims to exploit the chaos of the region to project influence across Iraq and beyond. “Iran could use the corridor (in Iraq) established on the ground through militias under its control, to ship weapons and supplies to proxies in Syria, where Iran is an important backer of Mr. Assad, and to Lebanon and its ally Hezbollah”, argued Arango.

However, cutting the flow of money into Iran would require more bilateral sanctions, which the President has not advocated. But new sanctions haven’t been ruled out, either. When asked if the Iran Deal was enough, French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron recently stated, “No. It is not, given the evolution of the regional situation and increasing pressure that Iran is exerting on the region”.

A press release from the White House on last Thursday noted the new strategy, which “focuses on neutralizing the government of Iran’s destabilizing influence and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants”.

Most objections to President Trump’s reshuffling of relations with Iran assail the move’s seemingly unilateral nature. Indeed, for Trump to back out of the JCPOA would erode the U.S.’s credibility in entering and negotiating new multinational agreements. The President’s approach to the Iranian problem could be flawed, and it may not be the right decision -but there is one worse angle. Signatories of the JCPOA could just stick to the deal, and the whole world could do nothing.

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