Damaging actions by Trump on Iran deal must be fully resisted

US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Tehran has led to the risk of greater instability in the Middle East and it is in the interests of all remaining signatories to keep it in place

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 June, 2018, 5:37am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 June, 2018, 5:37am

Keeping the Iran nuclear agreement in place for as long as possible is in the interests of all remaining signatories. US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the accord has led to the risk of greater instability in the Middle East, was a blow to multilateral deal making and efforts to curb proliferation, and threatens alliances in Europe.

Iran’s announcement that it will increase its uranium enrichment capacity would seem to signal that the unravelling is gathering pace. But allowing a collapse has to be avoided; there is too much for the region and world to lose.

Under the landmark 2015 deal with China, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Russia, Iran agreed to end nuclear proliferation in return for the lifting of economic and diplomatic sanctions. Trump denounced the agreement as it did not cover Iran’s ballistic missile programme or the nation’s role in conflicts in Syria and Yemen or support of extremist groups, and failed to address what happens when the pact begins to expire in 2025.

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His decision to withdraw means the American penalties will be reimposed, but he went a step further by extending them to foreign companies doing business with Iran that also trade with the US. That is not so problematic for China’s strong relations with Iran, a key country along the route of the “Belt and Road Initiative”, but it has European firms scrambling for ways around the measures.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave the order to boost enrichment in a speech on Monday in which he pledged the country would preserve its nuclear programme, claimed to be purely for power generation. The decision does not violate the pact, which sets strict limits on the amounts of nuclear material that can be processed. Regular inspections of Iranian facilities by the UN’s watchdog agency have shown adherence.

Trump was not interested in compliance when he made his decision last month; he was honouring an election pledge and siding with Iran’s arch-enemies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia. But arguing that the deal should be torn up and renegotiated ignores the fact that its aim is to prevent Iranian nuclear weapons development.

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The difference in opinion was on show in Paris this week, with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telling French President Emmanuel Macron he needed to turn his attention to dealing with Iran’s “regional aggression”, to which the leader responded that the accord “needs to be preserved to ensure control of nuclear activity”.

Iran has to resist moving in the direction of nuclear weapons development. Its remaining partners in the agreement have pledged to do their best to save the pact. Trump’s damaging ways have to be resisted and blocked.