Strategic observation

Xinhua Headlines: Quitting Iran nuke deal, Trump harms peace, security in Middle East

2018-05-10 16:32:26 (Beijing Time)


U.S. President Donald Trump signs a memorandum declaring his intention to withdraw from Iranian nuke deal at the White House in Washington D.C., the U.S., on May 8, 2018. (Xinhua/Ting Shen)

by Xinhua writers Zhang Xu, Mu Dong

TEHRAN, May 10 (Xinhua) -- The announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran nuke deal is a huge blow to peace and security in the Middle East.

In a televised speech, Trump announced the exit, and affirmed that he will not extend the waiver of nuke-related sanctions against Iran.

His counterpart, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, in a live speech broadcast nationwide announced that Iran will remain in the nuclear deal with the other five signatories of the pact without the United States; he spoke 20 minutes after Trump.

No matter what the two leaders say about the nuke deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran and the United States are set to clash.


With the economic weakening of Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia will seize the chance to curtail Iran's influence in the region and its support for proxies and allies including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, Shiite militias in Iraq and Houthis in Yemen.

Israel was the first to voice support for Trump's decision, followed by Saudi Arabia.

Eldad Pardo, an expert on Iran from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said this decision was taken "very late," expecting a larger deal that would include the Middle East region in general, and cover more content about the nuclear issue, the missile program and terrorism.

However, the response by Iran and its regional proxies would almost certainly lead to greater regional instability.

"It is a reckless step that has negative implications in the Middle East, as it came after the easing of tension between Tehran and the countries of the region since the deal was signed three years ago," said Khaled al-Muntaser, a Libyan international relations researcher and professor.

Intensified uncertainties in the Middle East geopolitics, and tensions flaring up are among the most likely subsequent crises.

Sameh Abdullah, managing editor of Egypt's state-run Al-Ahram newspaper, said it has become U.S. policy in the Middle East to create tension and never allow stability.

He thinks that the U.S. moves are not intended to restore regional stability but plant further seeds of dissensions among regional states. Doing so would increase U.S. influence in the region.

"Trump understands that it is a problem that Iran has expanded its military presence in Syria and Lebanon, which in his view must be changed. That's why Trump believes the deal has to be nixed," said Dan Diker, a director of the Program to Counter BDS and Political Warfare.

Not surprised by Trump's decision, Bilgehan Alagoz, a lecturer at the Institute of Middle East Studies, Marmara University, regarded the U.S. move as part of "a global strategy, not only a regional strategy."

The United States will be very influential in the Gulf "by containing Iran and by getting approval from the Arab allies, and this will also affect other world powers' dependence in the region," she said.

Meanwhile, Alagoz doesn't believe that the European Union (EU) would withdraw from the deal, at least for now, because "the EU also is dependent on external energy resources and Iran is one of the most important energy exporting countries."


Considering the new decision, it would be more difficult for international companies to sign deals or maintain businesses with Iran, as they would fear the risk of violating U.S. sanctions.

Iran's sectors of banking, oil and gas, and automotive would probably lose global partners, according to the country's financial analysts.

Paul Sheldon, chief geopolitical advisor in Dubai Office of S&P Global Platts Analytics, said the new sanctions will place around 200 million barrels per day of Iranian crude exports at risk by the end of 2018.

Meanwhile, regulatory uncertainty could cause some importers to cut shipments immediately, Sheldon estimated, saying U.S. allies including Japan and South Korea are likely to comply and reduce imports, while certain companies in the EU will likely avoid any risk of running afoul of U.S. law.

Furthermore, already troubled financial transactions by Iran would be further frustrated in the country's attempt to rejoin global markets and banking systems.

Washington is not meeting its commitments under the deal to remove barriers to allow the country's full engagement in international finance and commerce, said Hommod Friad, an economic researcher with a data study institution in Tehran.

The U.S. significance to international banking will weaken the ability of European and Asian companies to help ease Iran's economic pain, Friad said. "Any cooperation or investment plan involving Iran will be put on hold again."

Before Trump's announcement, Rouhani had said "if our expectations from JCPOA are met without the United States, so much the better."

However, unless there is a recovery in the country's economic and investment prospects, Iran's commitment to the deal could gradually erode following the U.S. withdrawal, resulting in its eventual collapse, observers commented.


The United States could face a backlash by leaving the deal.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran's compliance with the deal, has issued several reports confirming Iran has fulfilled its responsibilities under the agreement.

What's more, this nuclear deal is not a bilateral deal between Iran and the United States. The decision to unilaterally withdraw from the deal will take a toll on the U.S. international image and its credibility in foreign affairs.

Meanwhile, Iran could respond by punishing U.S. allies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

Iran has also threatened to target U.S. forces exposed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Moreover, the consequences of having no deal would go beyond proliferation. There is a likelihood that Saudi Arabia and other regional powers would also seek dual-use nuclear technology.

"Trump's withdrawal undermines the confidence and appetite of other potential nuclear proliferators to resolve similar issues via negotiation. Dialogue is always the best way to resolve the non-proliferation issue. If Iran's agreement can be so easily broken, why should people negotiate?" noted Friad, the economic researcher.


Public opinions in the region, especially in Iran and the Arab states, appear mostly opposed to Trump's decision, hinting their worries over further instability and Western pressures anew.

Gaza resident Abu Mohammed said, "Trump has frequently threatened other countries since he became U.S. president."

Ameer Turk, another Gaza resident, expressed deep worries that there would be a war in the region, saying the withdrawal from the deal is "a withdrawal from commitments to Iran, Europe and the world."

Washington has not honored its commitments under the 2015 international nuclear deal, said 25-year-old Zohreh Torabee, a law student at a Tehran university.

Majority support for the deal was buoyed by some optimism that the deal would eventually improve living conditions. That would unlikely be the case with the United States vacating the deal.

"Iranian people are sick of the same sanction games being played out over and over by the Americans, and have decided to resist the pressures," said Mohsen Kenofed, a middle-aged bookseller, expressing optimism that "we will hopefully overcome the hardship."

Nima and Mojgan, a young couple in the Iranian capital, said Trump's hostile approach towards their country has only made things worse for himself.

"At the end of the day it's us who will win the game," Mojgan said.

(Xinhua reporters Hassan Rouhvand in Tehran, Chen Wenxian in Jerusalem, Yi Aijun in Istanbul, Mahmoud Fouly in Cairo, Gerard Al-Fil in Dubai, Zhao Yue in Gaza and Li Yuan in Tripoli also contributed to the story.)

(Video editors: Cao Ying, Mu Xuyao)

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