Washington D.C. (GPA) – With the historic meeting between North and South Korea, news outlets have devoted minimal coverage to an upcoming event that could upheave tensions throughout the Middle East. On May 12th, Donald Trump will decide to either dump or recertify the Iran nuclear deal. Trump dumping the deal would be a clear divergence from European allies in favor of Saudi Arabia.
In just two weeks, Donald Trump could reimpose crippling sanctions against Iran and ditch the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Reimposing sanctions for an additional ten years (at the very least) would certainly hurt Iran, but Tehran wouldn’t be the only victim.
Washington’s European allies have invested billions into the Iranian economy. Companies like Germany, France, and the United Kingdom have also built strong trade relationships with Iran. With strict sanctions against their Russian neighbor, Iran is a very lucrative and viable alternative for investment and trade. Even the United Arab Emirates wouldn’t be happy about reimposing sanctions on Iran as the Emirates are one of Iran’s largest trade partners.
As a result, Washington backing out of the Iran deal would signal a clear jab at allies in Europe in favor of Middle East allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel.
But will the U.S. really back out or is Washington’s current regime just trying to remain relevant as its influence continues waning?
U.S. Sends Strong Message at Meetings with Saudis and Israelis
Mike Pompeo immediately jumped into action this weekend as the new U.S. Secretary of State traveling to Riyadh. Pompeo mimicked Saudi Arabia’s own narrative calling Iran the world’s “greatest sponsor of terror” and that Tehran has felt empowered to “behave worse” following the JCPOA.
Pompeo blamed Iran for Yemen’s retaliatory missile launches inside the kingdom and pointed to Yemen’s domestic ballistic missile program as an example of terror.
The secretary of state also visited Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a lead-up to the JPCOA decision.
Pompeo and Netanyahu expressed the same sentiments regarding Iran while Pompeo reiterated that the U.S. “stands with Israel” over Iran. Speaking to U.S. secretary of state, Netanyahu said “Iran is trying to gobble up one country after the other. Iran must be stopped. Its quest for nuclear bombs must be stopped. Its aggression must be stopped.”
The new U.S. secretary of state will also meet with Jordan as part of this flash trip to the region.
This visit and ditching the Iran deal would send a clear signal that Washington would rather conduct business and build relationships with Saudi Arabia and Israel over European countries.
Reimposing sanctions on Iran would give Riyadh the upper hand in the region’s oil market. With Tehran under strict sanctions, Riyadh would once again be able to manipulate oil prices by controlling supply.
Benjamin Netanyahu Puts on Another Performance
Benjamin Netanyahu put on another dramatic performance claiming Iran is “blatantly lying” about their nuclear program being peaceful.
The Israeli prime minister presented what he claimed to be a smoking gun proving Tehran had violated the JCPOA. Netanyahu kept referencing something he called “secret files” and a secret nuclear weapons program called “Amad.”
European parties insist that Iran has participated in requested inspections and not violated the agreement.
Europe Pools Effort to Save Iran Deal
Europe does not want to see the Iran deal die. Over the weekend, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkle met to take action.
Economic issues aside, Europe sees the JPCOA as the best way to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.
Macron spent an hour on the phone with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani over the weekend. During the call, Rouhani reiterated that the terms of the agreement are absolutely non-negotiable.
Speaking on National Public Radio (NPR) morning addition last week, Mohammad Javad Zarif explained his frustration with Trump’s threats to tear up the JCPOA. Zarif pointed out that this agreement took two full years of talks and negotiations with the seven entities involved: Iran, the United States, China, Russia, and the European Union among others. He also expressed the attitude that tossing the agreement in the trash simply because a new U.S. administration took power doesn’t make sense and isn’t fair to all parties involved.
Although European parties want to save the Iran deal, they also agree with the Trump regime’s general assessment of its shortcomings. In addition to infringing upon Iran’s self-determination by prohibiting Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom would like to curb its ballistic missile program as well. Europe is also concerned about what happens when the deal is set to expire in 2025.
Also published on Medium.