Wednesday,19 December, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1360, (14 - 20 September 2017)
Wednesday,19 December, 2018
Issue 1360, (14 - 20 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Iran deal in the balance

The future of the Iran nuclear deal will become clearer after this year’s UN General Assembly meeting in New York, writes Camelia Entekhabifard


Iran deal in the balance

Once again harsh voices in Iran and the United States have been heard, this time over the Iran nuclear agreement which US President Donald Trump has criticised as a “bad deal”.

Iran deal in the balance

A bad deal, according to Trump, is still a good deal for his Western partners, however, and it is supported by China and Russia. Yet, no country is technically obligated to remain committed to it if it wishes to withdraw.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is behind the campaign to take the US out of the Iran deal, and she has become famous in Iran for her harsh tone against the accord with her moves being closely monitored.

It is she, rather than US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is leading the campaign against Tehran. Tillerson wants the US to remain committed to the agreement, and there has been speculation in the Iranian media that Haley may be the next secretary of state once Tillerson has resigned.

So sure are many Iranians that Trump intends to withdraw from the agreement that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Iran Atomic Energy Agency, have warned the US of the decision’s consequences.

The consequences could be a nuclear race in the region. Salehi told a press conference that it would only take five days for Tehran to return to the pre-agreement stage back in 2005 in its nuclear programme and enrich uranium to a high grade.

This could be bluff, since it may be that it will take Iran longer to develop the capability to enrich uranium by 20 per cent or higher, but such an action would increase the tension in a region that already has many problems.

Many people hoped the Iran nuclear headache was ended for good two years ago.

On 19 September, the United Nations will officially start its 72nd General Assembly meeting in New York City. World leaders from 193 countries will come to New York to address the assembly and use the opportunity to meet others and discuss important topics.

Among this year’s speakers is Trump himself, and he will be one of the most interesting speakers according to observers.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, President of France Emmanuel Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are also expected, along with Rouhani. The latter has not confirmed his attendance, but he is scheduled to address the meeting’s second day on 20 September.

Politicians in Tehran may be calculating if the president’s presence at the UN will be beneficial or not and how he should react to Trump at the UN meeting if the latter uses his speech to attack Iran.

Rouhani started his second term in office recently, and the Iran nuclear deal has been called the most significant achievement of his first term.

Iran’s economy has slowly but steadily improved, and public satisfaction has encouraged him to speak of another round of talks in order to negotiate the rest of the sanctions not related to the nuclear programme.

France recently proposed talks with Iran on an amendment to the nuclear deal to limit the country’s missile programme beyond the accord timetable which has been set for 10 years. The proposal could be attractive for Tehran if Iran is promised a good air-defence system and is able to renew its dismantled fighter jets, which seems unlikely given the attitude of the Trump administration.

Opportunities for Iran to make up to the US have been lost with the end of the former Obama administration. But Iran will not abandon the nuclear deal, and Salehi has said it will remain committed to the agreement if the other parties remain committed to it in the absence of the US.

The deal has been the most significant achievement in the Islamic Republic’s history since the US hostage crisis in 1980, and it will be interesting to see how the country’s politicians react to Trump’s words in the coming days.

A meeting is scheduled between the foreign ministers of the P5+1 Group (the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany) and Iran on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting.

This would be the first time that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif has met Tillerson, but it is hard to say how much power the latter has to convince Trump that Iran remains committed to the agreement.

He may resign instead, leaving Haley to confront Iran.

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