While the president-elect does pose a threat to the Iran deal, its gravest perils come from the Obama administration that negotiated it and now claims it as a landmark achievement.
NEW YORK — Despite President-elect Donald Trump’s threats to undermine the nuclear agreement reached by Iran and the P5+1 world powers — China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States — in July 2015, the deal faces more serious danger from President Barack Obama’s failure to push for its full implementation.
“In America, the president isn’t all-powerful,” British journalist Roshan Muhammed Salih, editor of Islamic news portal 5Pillars and former London news chief for Iranian broadcaster Press TV, told MintPress News of Trump’s chances of scrapping the deal.
“There are restraints on his or her power.”
Those restraints are rapidly becoming apparent as opposition to Trump’s threats against the Iran deal mounts.
On Nov. 30, outgoing CIA Director John Brennan said discarding the agreement “would be disastrous.”
“First of all, for one administration to tear up an agreement that a previous administration made would be unprecedented,” he told the BBC.
“I think it would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement.”
In Congress, an unusual bipartisan consensus is emerging in support of the deal, with its erstwhile detractors nevertheless urging Trump to keep it.
“I think the beginning point is for us to cause them to strictly adhere [to the deal],” Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican from Tennessee who prominently opposed the deal as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told MSNBC in November.
“And I think that what we have to remember is, we have to keep the Europeans and others with us in this process.”
‘In a much worse situation than before’
As Corker indicated, impediments to scrapping the deal do not end at the shoreline.
“The main goal of Iran was to break the unity between the U.S. and its European allies, along with Russia and China,” Kazem Azin, co-founder of Solidarity with Iran, told MintPress.
“Now, if the U.S. breaks the deal internationally, they are going to be in a much worse situation than before the deal.”
If the United States walks away from the deal, there is every reason to think, as Secretary of State John Kerry warned, that it would walk away alone.
“There are several signatories to that deal, including European countries who are keen to do business with Iran,” Salih said.
“If Trump tries to scrap the deal, the European countries will rebel against that, and probably ignore it.”
Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the agreement’s loudest opponents, is expected to discourage Trump from discarding it.
The prospect of a breach among world powers seems to have reassured Iran’s leadership that the deal is secure.
“The world is not under the will of a single individual and party,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told his country’s state television on Nov. 16.
Echoing the sentiment, Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, told a seminar in New Delhi on Saturday that “the nuclear agreement is not a bilateral agreement but a multilateral agreement that came after everything failed.”
“I don’t think that the nuclear deal is in jeopardy,” he added.
‘Nuclear sanctions have not really been lifted’
However, few would argue that it is in the best of shape.
“From an Iranian point of view, the nuclear sanctions have not really been lifted on Iran,” Salih said.
“They’ve been lifted on paper, but in reality, Iran is still under sanctions. European banks are still afraid of doing business with Iran because of American sanctions on them.”
A periodic report on the implementation of the deal released by the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission in October reached a similar conclusion.
“Given its hostile policies against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its illusions that the sanctions can influence the Islamic Republic’s principled policies, the US administration is attempting to prevent implementation of the nuclear deal from affecting its primary sanctions,” it said.
According to Salih, continuing obstacles to connecting Iran with international financial systems, spurred by the threat of US sanctions against banks, imperil not only the deal, but also the Rouhani government that negotiated it.
They “will perhaps imperil Rouhani getting re-elected next year, because he’s staked his future on this deal delivering for the Iranian people and it hasn’t so far,” he said.
“There are many critics of the deal in Iran itself,” he added.
“At the moment, they’re toeing the line, because they want to give it a chance to succeed. But if it doesn’t success, the so-called ‘hardliners’ — the West loves to call them ‘hardliners’ — will gain ascendancy.”
‘The US cannot stop this’
Not all powers are willing to isolate Iran in fear of the United States, Azin said.
“There are signs that some European countries are not willing to follow the U.S.,” he said, citing Austria as an example.
He added that geopolitical shifts may ultimately render the question of Washington’s position less meaningful.
“The balance of forces, with rise of China and its strategic alliance with Russia, has changed,” he said.
“The U.S. cannot stop this.”
But with Obama poised for a fresh renewal of U.S. sanctions on Iran — to which Rouhani promises to “firmly respond” — prospects seem unlikely to immediately improve.
Indeed, if Trump truly wishes to kill the deal, his wisest course of action might be to simply continue the policies of the Obama administration that, despite claiming the deal as a landmark achievement, nevertheless seems determined to let it die from neglect.
The bipartisan nature of U.S. attempts to strangle Iran’s economy stem from U.S. leaders’ aversion to “a militarily strong, economically strong, independent state in the region that doesn’t do their bidding,” Salih said.
“America cannot tolerate the existence of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Whether there’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House, that policy will not change.”