9 May 2018Hot off the Press
President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that he will be pulling the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.
Mr Trump held a press conference where he stated: “No action taken by the [Iranian] regime has been more dangerous than its pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them.”
The conference was followed by Mr Trump signing a presidential memorandum which reinstates nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime and any other countries that support Iran’s nuclear progression.
The JCPOA is an international agreement established in 2015 between the five members of the United Nations Security Council, Germany, the European Union and Iran, which limits Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
The President has continued to voice his opposition of the deal since he was nominated for the presidency 2016, saying that “this was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made. It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace and it never will.”
Mr Trump said that the agreement, which was a signature foreign policy achievement of former president Barack Obama, didn’t acknowledge Iran’s ballistic missile program and its nuclear activities beyond 2025.
Abandoning the deal is in line with Mr Trump’s “America First” policy, which has seen the US withdraw from other significant deals such as the Paris climate accord.
Iran made it clear that there would be no further negotiations made on the deal and stated on national television that Mr Trump’s decision was “illegal, illegitimate and undermines international agreements”.
US allies have maintained their position on the deal and remain supportive of its aim to reduce nuclear facilities within Iran.
French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron expressed his disappointment via Twitter, saying,
France, Germany, and the UK regret the U.S. decision to leave the JCPOA. The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 8, 2018
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull expressed optimism that the nuclear deal will survive without the involvement of the US. He told ABC News: “We encourage all parties to continue to comply with the deal. And we certainly are trying to support that,”
However the decision was hailed by Washington’s principle allies in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who last week aired a live presentation claiming Iran lied about conducting a secret nuclear weapons program, said: “Israel thanks President Trump for his courageous leadership, his commitment to confront the terrorist regime in Tehran, and his commitment to ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, not today, not in a decade, not ever.”
It is difficult to assess the potential diplomatic fallout that could result from the United States’ repudiation of JCPOA, and reimposition of unilateral sanctions.
At least from the US’ perspective, JCPOA is not a treaty, and so there has been no breach of international law by the policy reversal. However, it may have diplomatic impacts if the international community feels it cannot trust the US to make and keep its commitments, whether those are legal or political.
Already, leaders in Britain, France, Germany, the EU and Russia have affirmed their commitment to the deal, and Australia too has distanced itself from the US position.
Given there is currently no credible evidence that Iran has failed to comply with JCPOA, this will likely be seen as a disproportionate favouring of Israeli interests in an already volatile region; President Trump’s announcement that the US is leaving the deal comes just a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his “Iran Lied” presentation.
Tensions in the Middle East will undoubtedly rise as a result, but the international community will work hard to quell the flames.
The economic impacts are likely to be minimal. Apart from the United States, only a handful of countries — all in the Middle East — have supported the change of position.