“Our objective is clear. Iran shall never possess any nuclear weapon. Not now, not in five years, not in ten years, never. We should not abandon it if we don’t have something more substantial instead. That is my position.” These are some of the remarks made by Emmanuel Macron, the French President, in his address to the US House of Representatives. Moreover, his position over the Iranian ballistic missile program made it clear that the deal, in his opinion, is far from flawless. Indeed, Macron was not the first person to mention the shortcomings of the deal. In his speech at the American University, immediately after Iran Nuclear Deal was forged, Barack Obama stated, “As was true in previous treaties, it does not resolve all problems. It certainly doesn’t resolve all our problems with Iran. It does not ensure a warming between our two countries…”
It is impossible to keep a blind eye on the high level of optimism that the Obama administration put into the Nuclear Deal with Iran; aiming for a political overture to be carried out by the Iranian party which claimed to be moderate. What the coalition thought to be a chance for Iran to reënter the international community, as a matter of fact, turned into a path leading to a clearly higher level of hostility. After about three years since JCPOA has been signed, the break from nuclear activity has seemingly led Iran to extend his military intervention across the Middle East, partaking full time in the hegemonic battle with the US in Syria, with Saudi Arabia in Yemen and with Israel in Lebanon and Palestine. The cash flow from the US into Iran did not provide the Iranian citizens, suffering from long and breathtaking sanctions, with significant economic progress. The market did not get into the stability that everyone expected and the value of the national currency continued its decline. Industrial units started to face more serious crises as the workers launched long running strikes across the country despite the severe crackdown from the authorities. The crackdown was not only against the country’s —formally banned— labor movement and included, as ever, the journalists, political activists, students, etc. The significant example in this regard was the protests in January 2018 which were surprisingly widespread and harshly returned by the authorities with overwhelming number of detentions; a lot of whom still imprisoned and a telling number of them died in prison “having committed suicide” but without any investigation ever carried out. Suspension of the nuclear activity seems to have given more space to the oppressive tentacles of an authoritarian regime in Tehran.
Trump has, completely legally, left the deal. The text of the JCPOA maintains such a right to any of those involved in it; Moreover, the fact that Obama refused to, or maybe dared not, take the deal to the Capitol Hill and decided to sign it, on his own, at the White House made it way easier for Donald Trump to walk out of it. The deal is now technically killed. European allies are trying to provide Iran with the guarantee that the deal is still in place. However, what Trump announced regarding the sanctions basically meant that although the European countries are still in the deal, their transactions with Iran will be subject to American sanctions. Unlikely would there be any European business willing to be destined as such.
Another significant point here is Donald Trump’s attitude in quitting the deal. In late 2017, in his effort to repeal Obamacare, he finally reached the point where he sought to suggest “Repeal” without any clearly laid-out program as the replacement. Such an effort did not make it through the House of Representatives but not needing the House over the Iran nuclear deal, he did manage to pull out without any clearly defined plan to replace it. This point had been previously highlighted, not only by Emmanuel Macron in his speech to the House, but during the negotiations of former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, with the European allies over the JCPOA’s sunset clause.
After signing the withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Trump, in response to the journalists who asked him about how such a move can make America safer, said, “This will make America much safer.” Moving on to North Korea and Secretary Pompeo’s visit he uttered defining sentences that can be quite helpful in decoding his attitude. “Relationships are being built with North Korea. We’ll see how it all works out… maybe it works, maybe it won’t. But it can be a great thing for North Korea, South Korea and Japan.”
There is a shot that Trump is trying to carry out his approach towards North Korea one more time against Iran; that’s to say a harsh and threatening rhetoric to produce fanfare and implementing more sanctions in the meanwhile so as to bring Iran to the table. What he seems to have missed though, is that JCPOA was a result of Iran coming to the table after long and wearisome sanctions. Constructing a new deal with Tehran, with a White House more unpredictable than ever, now seems way beyond reach.