Trump’s Abrogation of JCPOA: Prospects of Rising Powers’ Surge in the Middle East

It is expected that Trump’s unilateral abrogation of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) will increase the influential role of Rising Powers’ surge in Middle Eastern politics. At least such a moment of reckoning meant a happy day for Russia and China emboldened as they should in their efforts to gain futuristic lucrative strategic deals with Iran on similar fashion to selected EU companies “win-win” relationship with Tehran. Thus, in July 2017 the French energy giant Total has signed a $ 5 billion dollar deal with Iran to develop the South Pars-offshore oilfield. Despite the risks of US pressures to terminate the French deal (the largest since enforcement of JCPOA July Accord) the DEAL sustained its validity. The initial anti-TRUMP’s Iranian response came with a stern pledge of the Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani to support Tehran’s continuous abidance of the deal’s core principles and provisions. Hence, a green light for a new charm Iranian diplomatic initiative with the Russia, China and the EU countries was given to reach a new understanding for a sustained JCPOA regardless of US firm opposition. In the meantime, the Iranian President has made it clear that if the costs of remaining in the deal will outweigh the advantages of staying within, then Iran would take a much harder position aimed at protecting its own economic interests.

It all depends however on whether the new sanctions’ regime imposed by the Trump’s administration will lead to more serious sanctions adversely affecting Iranian economic and financial interests. Admittedly, Iran needs solid international commitment of relief measures for its oil and banking systems. It is worthwhile mentioning that despite US –French –British attack on Syrian regime sites in response to Assad’s regime using chemical warfare against his own population , the trilateral agreement between Iran , Turkey and Russia in April 2018 still hold relatively firm in determining Syrian political future. The dynamics of power politics among the key players in the Syrian scene makes it infinitely harder to speculate how the relationship between Russia, Turkey, Iran and the US will evolve. What of interest centres on the strategic repercussions of Washington –Trump’s decision of withdrawing from the JCPOA which many observers of the region conceive as placing Washington in isolationist mode. Russia under Putin’s leadership has expressed strong willingness to cement its relationship with Tehran in an anticipation of Tump’s maverick decision.

For their part, the Iranians – if things deteriorate further in economic and social terms- will be adamant to resume high nuclear enrichment techniques with Russian cooperation. Furthermore, other areas of bilateral collaboration were stated as part of the larger framework of building strong institutional partnership such as in the fields of Energy, Transport, High-tech and Medicine. Clearly no disagreement was sighted among Russia, China and EU states on the failure of the Trump’s administration to produce a rational argument for shaping new viable other alternatives. The question of missile delivery vehicles with the risks involved of carrying nuclear bombs was already addressed and refuted at various occasions including during the sessions of IAEA conferences.  IAEA itself hasn’t accepted the US argument that Iran has violated the essence of the agreement thereby Iranian compliance by its provisions. The US decision will increasingly drive the EU, Russia, China, etc. on a similar uniting positon to counter any kind of violations of IAEA enrichment techniques something which has not proven to be the case until now.

China for its part, has asserted that IAEA in no less than 10 occasions confirmed Iranian compliance with the monitoring and inspection measures. Furthermore, at the Preparatory Committee of the 2020 NPT Review Conference a joint Chinese-Russian was issued confirming their support to the NPT whilst affirming that the JCPOA “contributed to strengthening the global non-proliferation and demonstrated that non-proliferation can only be addressed through diplomacy-in marked contrast to Donald’s approach. They emphasised the need for all parties to implement their commitments under the accord and to refrain from actions that undermine implementation of commitments.” (Emma Scott, China’s position on the Iran Nuclear Deal, www.lobelog.com). Clearly China in line with Russia has a great stake in such a salient lucrative deal. This is why it hosted an international nuclear energy seminar with Iran and the 5+1 key participants of JCPOA. Other important participants included “officials from China’s Atomic Energy Authority, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), as well as the IAEA”.(ibid) It is essential to remember that China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is the contracting party for the redesign and renovation of the Arak heavy water reactor. The implementing the project should take 3 years and so China seems clearly adamant that the project see the daylight without manufactured obstacles.

Furthermore, Russia, Turkey, the EU, and other concerned Rising Powers states have all expressed strong opposition and indignation of Trump’s move. Admittedly, the Saudi Arabia, UAE and other GCC states as well as Israel have welcomed Trump’s unrealistic approach, each for reasons reflecting its special interest.

It is essential for Trump’s advisers to assert that the JCPOA is a multilateral arrangement backed by Security Council Resolution (2231) -2015 and the IAEA as an international professional nuclear peace prone monitoring Agency. Obama’s administration to all intent and purposes seems more realistic and professional in addressing such an intricate issue in comparison with Trump’s misunderstood, conflict prone and “ideologically –rightist-Israelis orientated approach”. It is pertinent to remind ourselves that any new Accord will pass through a cumbersome international diplomatic process with no guarantee of reaching a final settlement. It may seem from Trump’s perspective easy to sabotage a so-called a “rotten bad agreement” but very difficult to build a new peaceful nuclear multilateral arrangement taken into account that the serious North Korean nuclear case has yet to be resolved.  It is worthwhile however looking into new annex arrangements for Iranian nuclear ballistic missiles and Iranian regional ambitions as and when necessary through peaceful diplomatic means.

Ahmad Shikara

Member of the faculty at the EmiratesCenter for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) in Abu Dhabi since 2000. There he works in the Training Department and in Human Resources. He recently published on the ramifications of Iraqi elections. In the past he conducted extensive research at the ECSSR and has conducted graduate and faculty seminars focusing on the effect of resource scarcity on the Arabian Gulf and the United States. Dr. Shikara, and before joining the ECSSR, served on the Political Science Department at the United Arab Emirates University (1980-1994), as an honorary professor at the Institute of Developing Economies in Japan (1994) and as a research fellow in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Auckland, New Zealand (1996-2000).

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