See More on Facebook

Analysis, Diplomacy

Uncertainty ahead as US walks out of Iran deal

Pullout may have negative consequences like strengthening hardliners in Iran, say analysts.


Written by

Updated: May 9, 2018

United States President Donald Trump was widely expected to decline to renew a 120-day waiver of sanctions that America’s Congress imposed on Iran in 2012 – meaning, in effect, that the US is walking out of a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran.

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which took effect in 2015, international sanctions were lifted in exchange for Teheran suspending its nuclear programme.

The deadline for Mr Trump’s signature to extend the waiver on sanctions is May 12, but on Monday (May 7), he tweeted that he would announce his decision yesterday afternoon.

Besides the US, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the European Union all signed the deal with Iran. In recent weeks, the US’ European allies France and Germany have tried to persuade Mr Trump to stay in the deal.

Analysts warn that a US pullout from the deal may lead to negative consequences. For one thing, it will give Iran an opportunity to exploit divisions between the US and its European allies, analysts say.

A US withdrawal from the deal would also ironically strengthen hardliners in Iran who did not like it in the first place, believing that Iran took a bad deal which restricted its sovereign right to have nuclear weapons – a position that most of the population would support, Iran experts say.

“The moderates and reformists, championed by President Hassan Rouhani and his chief negotiator, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, continue to hail the deal as a win-win solution to the nuclear crisis,” Dr Ariane Tabatabai, a senior associate with the Proliferation Prevention Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, wrote last month in The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

For them, the agreement removed the international sanctions that had stifled the economy, and paved the way for Iran’s re-entry into the world community while ridding it of the threat of war.

“But Iranian hardliners see the nuclear deal differently,” wrote Dr Tabatabai, who is also a visiting assistant professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. “From their point of view, the country made a number of concessions that weakened its hard-won nuclear infrastructure, for very little in return.”

Separately, a diplomat in Washington, DC, told The Straits Times that the gap between moderates like Mr Rouhani and so-called hardline conservatives, like Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, on the issue of the nuclear programme was not very wide.

“At the end of the day, Rouhani or any of these people who are relatively moderate compared to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, cannot survive in that system unless they adapt to a harder line on the nuclear programme,” he said.

“And if the clerical establishment and Rouhani say we believe we must have a nuclear programme, they will have most of the people with them automatically, without coercion; it is a symbol of national security and sovereign rights,” he added.

However, there is a possibility that Mr Trump may leave room to negotiate a deal that addresses his concerns.

Mr Trump, who calls the Iran deal one of the “worst deals ever”, has objected to Iran’s ballistic missile programme; its influence in Yemen and Syria and Lebanon; and the deal’s “sunset” provisions which, in 10 to 15 years, would allow Iran to gradually restart its nuclear programme.

In a speech last October, he said: “In just a few years, as key restrictions disappear, Iran can sprint towards a rapid nuclear weapons breakout.”

He added: “In other words, we got weak inspections in exchange for no more than a purely short-term and temporary delay in Iran’s path to nuclear weapons.”

Mr Trump may not immediately reimpose sanctions targeting Iran’s Central Bank. And a dispute resolution mechanism gives parties to the JCPOA 35 days to consider claims of violations.

But Mr Rouhani has said Iran wants the JCPOA or nothing at all.

Last year, Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies ran an exercise to simulate outcomes from the US walking out of the JCPOA.

Its conclusion: The US “might well find itself, in a relatively short time, faced with a number of unsavoury choices, from settling for achievable but far less ambitious goals on Iran’s nuclear programme, to prolonged tensions with key allies, to a dramatic escalation with Iran at a time when other priorities, like North Korea, make that undesirable”.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, Diplomacy

US ready for talks with N. Korea, but not in a hurry

The State Department has responded to Kim Jong-un’s letter to President Trump. The US State Department said Wednesday that it is ready to hold working-level talks with North Korea on relinquishing its nuclear arsenal after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a letter to US President Donald Trump, the first direct contact between the two leaders in months. During a press briefing, US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus reaffirmed that the country is seeking to achieve lasting peace and the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. “Here at the State Department we are ready and willing to continue engagement on working-leve


By The Korea Herald
June 14, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

China acknowledges Pakistan’s efforts in ‘combating terrorism, extremism’

The foreign ministers of both countries made the statement after a bilateral visit. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday appreciated Pakistan’s efforts “in firmly combating terrorism and extremism”, noting that Islamabad had Beijing’s support in the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP), according to a joint statement issued by the two countries. Yi’s evaluation came following a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is currently on an official tour of China. “The Chinese side called on the international community to view Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts and contributions in an objective and fair manner, and to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with Pakistan,” the joint statement read. Both sides also noted that it was a “diplomatic priority” to further strengthen the “all-weathe


By Dawn
June 14, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

No talks with Pakistan till it stops exporting terror, Modi says

Modi said India has not seen any change in Pakistan’s attitude on dealing with terrorism. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday made it clear to Chinese President Xi Jinping that there was no question of India resuming dialogue with Pakistan until Islamabad created an atmosphere free of terrorism in the region. At a meeting with the Chinese leader on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, Modi said India has not seen any change in Pakistan’s attitude on dealing with terrorism emanating from its soil. Making it abundantly clear to Beijing that India was committed to bilateral mechanism for resolving all issues with Pakistan, he said all efforts by New Delhi for peace with Islamabad had been derailed. Incidentally, the comments came when Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was also in Bishkek for the SCO Summit. Briefing reporters o


By The Statesman
June 14, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

Beijing slams unrest and backs HK govt’s use of lawful means to tackle it

Protests have shut down Hong Kong for the past several days before a government crackdown. Beijing yesterday condemned the unrest that broke out in Hong Kong over the city’s extradition Bill as an organised riot, and said it supported the local government’s use of lawful means to resolve the situation. Asked if the central government supported the use of rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that mainstream public opinion in Hong Kong was against any act that undermines the city’s prosperity and stability. “Any civilised and lawful society will not tolerate the destruction of peace and tranquillity,” he said. “The Chinese central government strongly condemns all types of violence and supports the Hong Kong government to handle the matter according to the law.” Chinese state media


By The Straits Times
June 14, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

Capitalizing on moderate Islam at Osaka’s G20 summit

Indonesia has a unique position among G20 countries. In an exclusive interview with The Jakarta Post on Tuesday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo yet again demonstrated his disinterest in foreign affairs issues. This goes against the expectations of many Indonesian and foreign diplomats, who would like to see him build his own legacy in international diplomacy in his second term in office after focusing on domestic issues in his first term. Jokowi is slated to attend two summits this month, the biannual ASEAN Summit in Bangkok next week and the annual G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 28 and 29. When asked about his likely presence and personal involvement at international fora in his second term, Jokowi said he would be more focused on domestic issues. He said he only felt obliged to attend several unilateral meetings, such as the summits of G20 and ASEAN. “I think domest


By The Jakarta Post
June 13, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

Chinese vessel abandons PH boat after collision

Chinese ships rammed a Philippines fishing boat in contested territory. A Chinese fishing vessel abandoned a sinking Philippine fishing boat after hitting it at Recto Bank in the South China Sea earlier this week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reported on Wednesday. Lorenzana condemned the hit-and-run and called for an investigation and diplomatic action. “We denounce the actions of the Chinese fishing vessel for immediately leaving the incident scene abandoning the 22 Filipino crewmen to the mercy of the elements,” he said in a statement. “We condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly action of the Chinese fishing vessel and its crew for abandoning the Filipino crew. This is not the expected action from a responsible and friendly people,” he said. Fled the scene The incident happened on Sunday night.


By Philippine Daily Inquirer
June 13, 2019