LAST week, the United States was alone at the United Nations Security Council over its decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal when the European Union praised the agreement for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It was evident at the UN Security Council that there was staunch support among member states for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Rosemary Di-Carlo, Undersecretary General for Political Affairs stated: “UN chief Antonio Guterres continued to view the JCPOA as a demonstration of successful multilateralism and a major achievement in nuclear non- proliferation, dialogue and diplomacy”. She reminded the Council that last month the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had reported that Iran continued to abide by its commitments on ballistic missile tests carried out since January this year; thus there was no reason for withdrawal from the agreement by the US.
Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, claimed that the “Iranian regime’s ballistic missile activity has grown since the nuclear deal”, adding that “Iran has exploited the goodwill of nations and defied multiple Security Council resolutions in its quest for a robust ballistic missile force”. In reply, Mr Eshagh al Habib, the Acting Charge d’ Affaires of Iran, described the US withdrawal from the plan and the subsequent re-imposition of sanctions as an “unlawful conduct” and a “clear violation” of the resolution endorsing the plan. The five powers — China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom — have all reiterated in recent days that they will stick with the agreement namely the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). France, the United Kingdom and other key U.S. allies have shown no interest in abandoning the 2015 multilateral nuclear accord negotiated with Iran despite Trump’s pressure.
William Drozdiak, a foreign policy expert with the Brookings Institution and a Consultant on European issues, said “France, Germany and Britain will strongly resist any threatening calls by the United States to use armed military action against Iran, and they’ve already condemned the idea of forcing regime change.” Brian Hook, the Administration’s Special Representative on Iran, rejected the idea that the US had isolated itself from Europe and other allies by pursuing tough economic pressure on Iran. He said the US and the European Union agree on the threat posed by Iran, if not the approach on how to address it. Hook noted that the sanctions pressure the U.S. has applied so far has been targeted at the private sector, and he said that most companies have made a business decision that they’d rather stop doing business with Iran than risk losing access to the U.S. market.
Iran and six major world powers had reached a nuclear deal in 2015 after more than a decade of negotiations. The world had hailed the nuclear deal; the then US President Barack Obama had termed the agreement as “major step to a more hopeful world”, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had then said it was a historic deal; and the European Union called it a “sign of hope for the entire world”, while Israel called it an “historic surrender”. Anyhow, under the deal, sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations were to be lifted in return for Iran agreeing long-term curbs on a nuclear program that the West had been suspecting was aimed at producing a nuclear bomb. The agreement was touted a major political victory for both, the then US President Barack Obama and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. In other words, it was a win-win position for both.
It was hoped that the deal would transform the Middle East, as Iran would get rid of its isolation. The US and the West would have Iran’s full cooperation against IS/Daesh, as Iran was already helping Iraq and Syria in their fight against the IS militants. There was an aura of optimism that Iran would help reduce West’s tension with Syria and improve situation in Yemen. However, Saudi Arabia and Arab countries had expressed their reservations, but the then US Administration was looking at a wider picture, as Iran was likely to play a positive role under the guidance of Hassan Rouhani, who is considered pragmatist. Of course, prices of oil in the world market had declined, and the developing countries like Pakistan benefited, as the bill for import of oil was substantionally reduced. Pakistan had welcomed the N-deal between Iran and P5+1.
There was no reason to suspect that Iran would surreptitiously develop nuclear weapons, especially when there was concrete proof that Iran was not at all close to detonating the nuclear device. However, after 20 months’ hectic negotiations, world powers and Iran had reached an agreement, which was delayed due to differences over nuances. Hassan Rouhani, during the debate at the time of presidential elections in Iran had stated: “It is good to have centrifuges running, provided people’s lives and livelihood are also running”. This was reflective of fact that Iran’s leadership cared for the problems faced by the Iranian people who suffered from biting sanctions. Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries should realize that with the change of political landscape of the Middle East, they have to learn to co-exist with Iran. Of course, Israel had opposed the Iran nuclear deal tooth and nail, and was happy after Trump announced to withdraw from the deal.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.