Dangerous, reckless decision by Donald Trump to pull US from pact
Although far from perfect, the Iran nuclear deal was shown to be working, and actions by the White House now put landmark talks with North Korea at risk and threaten greater instability in the Middle East
The decision by United States President Donald Trump to pull his country from the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions is reckless and dangerous.
He called the agreement with China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany “decaying and rotten”, yet it has proven effective in preventing Tehran from producing material to make bombs.
With the stroke of a pen, he has ignored the calls of the international community and embarked on a potentially disastrous course with wide-ranging consequences for the Middle East, Washington’s relations with Europe and perhaps even upcoming landmark talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
But there is still a glimmer of hope that the American leader will see reason; there are 90 and 180-day wind-down periods before the two sets of economic and financial measures take effect.
Trump is right in contending that the deal signed in 2015 is problematic. Restrictions on Iran’s enrichment of nuclear material expire after 15 years and the pact permits the continued development and testing of ballistic missiles.
Tehran argues that a long-standing pledge not to produce nuclear weapons is shown by a commitment to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which it is a signatory.
But if that promise was to be trusted, there would never have been a need for the agreement in the first place and doubts about its true intentions have been cast by a relentless pursuit of sophisticated rockets, integral to an atomic arms programme.
Washington’s partners in the deal recognise the shortcomings and have been urging Trump to work with them on making improvements.
But he seemingly cannot be swayed and last week backed a claim by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long been lobbying Trump to walk away from the pact, that a cache of stolen documents showed Iran was not fulfilling its obligations.
International nuclear inspectors contend otherwise, having verified 10 times, the latest in February, that the country is in full compliance.
Scrapping the agreement would have serious consequences. It would undermine the moderate government of Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, who although pledging to find ways to keep the deal in place, has also ordered Iran’s atomic energy agency to get ready to resume enrichment on an industrial scale.
That would risk sparking an arms race with rivals Israel and Saudi Arabia. The possibility of the US forging a meaningful agreement with North Korea would also be put in doubt; Kim would have good reason to question Trump’s sincerity.
There are ways of strengthening the pact without tearing it up. To ignore what it has achieved would increase instability in the Middle East and imperil future deals and cooperation.