Politics wins, diplomacy loses as Trump leaves Iran deal

Diplomacy took a backseat on Tuesday as US President Donald Trump took the political decision to leave the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The president with ‘America first’ policy kept a promise he gave to his supporters in 2016 campaign by tearing up the deal. But by doing so, he also hurt European allies France, Britain, and Germany who were signatories to the deal. His decision to pull out was a slap on their leaders who recently courted, cajoled and warned him over the deal and also on those who painstakingly crafted it.

Without any convincing reason, Trump left a deal which was working. The deal had put in place an efficient inspection and verification regime and Iran was sticking to its commitments. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which periodically checks Iran’s compliance, has not found any breach. UN inspectors have access to Iran’s nuclear supply chain. Hence, “cheating” by Iran is not possible as alleged by Trump in his nuclear pull-out speech on Tuesday.

It was not the deal but Trump who took a ‘one-sided’ view by arguing that the accord stands on a “decaying and rotten” foundation and it is “defective to the core”. The deal is focused on preventing Iran from going ahead with its nuclear programme. It is not a solution for all problems with Iran. Like the US, Turkey, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, Tehran is also involved in conflicts in Syria or Yemen. Some leaders like Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu may come out with new disclosures to expose Iran’s “lies”. The 2015 cannot be dumped or amended in light of such issues.

Trump claims that his decision to withdraw from the deal would make America much safer. The US is safer if the deal stands because it has helped in rolling back Iran’s nuclear programme. By pulling the US out of it, Trump will be raising tensions in the Middle East and sparking an arms race. Once sanctions begin to bite, Tehran may do some reckless act which may harm the US.

By pulling out of the deal, Trump wanted to score political brownie points by showing that his predecessor Barack Obama made a big mistake by approving it. But the deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — was between Iran and a host of countries which included the US and it was endorsed by a resolution passed in the UN Security Council.

Trump’s pull-out comes a month ahead of the historic summit between him and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. Kim cannot be blamed if he doubts the sincerity of a president who walked away from a deal ignoring the appeals of his European allies.

Trump may involve South Korea and China in talks at a later stage. If the talks end in a deal, the focus will be on preventing North Korea from reviving its nuclear programme. To ensure that, the same inspection and verification mechanism will come into play as in the case of Iran nuclear deal. If his European allies criticise Trump over the deal then, he should have the magnanimity to accept their views.