New strategy needed to keep Tehran engaged
Now that the United States has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, China, Russia and leading European nations must do their best to salvage it
The world has too much to lose if the Iran nuclear deal that US President Donald Trump has decided to pull out of collapses. China, Russia and leading European countries will have to do their best to ensure it can be salvaged.
New American sanctions are likely to penalise non-US companies trading with Iran, and doing nothing to repair the damage done will lead to a worsening of tensions in the Middle East, a security threat that has to be avoided.
Trump made his decision because he said the deal was the worst the United States had been involved in. Yet, in withdrawing, he offered no alternative and the option put forward this week by his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, seems bound to heighten tensions, not just in the Middle East, but with relations between the US and its European allies.
Pompeo told the conservative Heritage Foundation that the US would use its economic and military might if Iran did not comply with a 12-point list of demands, among them stopping uranium enrichment, developing missiles, supporting rebels in Syria and Yemen, and backing the extremist groups Hezbollah and Hamas.
If Iran complied, Washington would lift sanctions, establish diplomatic relations and help its economy.
International nuclear inspectors have repeatedly verified Tehran is complying with the terms of the pact, a matter Trump’s administration has conveniently ignored. But there is little or no chance any of the other demands will be met by the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which has been pursuing an agenda of influence in the region for decades.
Reimposing sanctions will worsen the economic plight of Iranians and increase nationalism. Military intervention would be a mistake; Iraq and Libya prove that.
Only through incentives and economic support can Iran’s leaders be convinced to denuclearise and that involves engagement, not isolation.
Secondary sanctions imposed by the US will have an economic cost for Chinese, European and Russian companies, and China will have to tread a careful diplomatic line given its good relations with Iran and Iranian rivals Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Beijing and its partners have to come up with a new package of economic incentives.