In a major policy speech reminiscent of George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” speech in 2003, US President Donald Trump trashed the Iran nuclear accord without actually scrapping it, dispatching it to Congress for further review while going full speed in demonizing Tehran.
Although billed as “decertification,” Trump still fell short of that and simply refused to re-certify the deal, stating categorically that he will terminate it if the White House and Congress can’t work out a sound revision, as if this is a unilateral or bilateral deal that Washington has free hand to rescript it.
Opening a Pandora’s Box, Trump has now delegated an important foreign policy decision to a fractious Congress that already has its hands full with various issues on its agenda and, in all likelihood, incapable of anything but a policy impasse on this matter.
Already, various key lawmakers from both parties have stated their positions in favor of sticking with the agreement and a pending bill seeking to “strengthen” the agreement is bound to face formidable opposition, by virtue of calling for a new round of negotiations with Iran, something none of US’s European allies look forward to.
As a result of Trump’s action today, the Iran nuclear deal has been cast under a giant cloud of uncertainty, sure to harm Iran’s attempt to lure foreign investors. This uncertainty is poison for Iran’s economy and a major setback for the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who responded firmly to Trump by reminding him that this is an international agreement authorized by the United Nations.
Iran has promised a proportionate response, which might mean complaining against the US to the UN Security Council as well as to the Joint Commission of the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). A special panel by the Commission may now be formed in order to address the US-Iran dispute. Meanwhile, Iran is counting on steady support of the JCPOA by the Europeans, who are increasing their trade with Iran in the post-JCPOA environment.
With respect to a broader Iran policy, Trump’s speech was long on Iranophobic rhetoric and short on substance, parroting Tel Aviv’s and Riyadh’s accusations against Iran, by levelling every conceivable vice to the Iranian government both at home and abroad, thus invoking a Manichean enemy image of Iran that deeply distorts the facts about today’s Iran.
Thus, Trump has now taken formal steps toward recreating the Iran nuclear crisis, a crisis of choice, not necessity.