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 bill on HK infringes on China’s sovereignty

An editorial from Chinese State Media. The passage by the US House of Representatives of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which confirms the United States’ support for protests in China’s special administrative region, comes as no surprise, given the high-profile support in the House and the visit of Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong and Denise Ho to the US last month. It is also likely to be passed by the US Senate soon. In supporting the legislation, which threatens Hong Kong’s “special status” if certain provisions are not made to protect its autonomy, US politicians claim they are supporting the “rights” and “liberties” of Hong Kong people. China calls the legislation a mechanism that supports separatism. Although the Western media are quick to dismiss such a claim, details of the act reveal Washington’s real agenda goes f


By China Daily
October 23, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

South Korea PM’s Japan visit a chance to mend ties

The two countries have not seen eye to eye after a trade dispute. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon kicked off a three-day visit to Japan in the hope that a meeting with his Japanese counterpart will pave the way for improvements in the two countries’ strained relations. Before heading to Tokyo, Lee said he hoped South Korea and Japan would foster harmonious and mature relations despite difficulties, speaking with Japanese Ambassador Yasumasa Nagamine, who saw Lee off at Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. “I don’t expect that this visit will resolve everything but it will become an opportunity to take a step forward,” Lee said. Lee described Japanese Emperor Naruhito as a “warm and friendly” person, recalling their encounter at the World Water Forum in Brazil in March last year. On Tuesday, Lee attended Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony at the Imperial Palace, which was followed


By The Korea Herald
October 23, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

Mahathir warns of possible trade sanctions on Malaysia amid US-China trade war

From a Reuters report in Straits Times. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday (Oct 21) that his exports-reliant country could be hit with trade sanctions amid rising protectionism highlighted by the United States-China tariff war. Tun Dr Mahathir did not mention the source of possible sanctions on the South-east Asian country, but said he was disappointed that proponents of free trade were now indulging in restrictive trade practices on a “grand scale”. “Unfortunately, we are caught in the middle,” he told a conference in the capital Kuala Lumpur, referring to the US-China trade war. “Economically, we are linked to both markets and physically, we are also caught in between for geographical reasons. There are even suggestions that we ourselves would be a target for sanctions.” The US and China were two of the three biggest export dest


By The Straits Times
October 23, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

New Delhi slams Islamabad for unilaterally stopping postal services

Prasad further said that Pakistan ‘without any prior notice or information has stopped sending postal department’s letter to India’. Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said that Pakistan had stopped postal service from India for the last two months and slammed the move saying that it was in contravention of international norms. “For the last two months, Pakistan has stopped postal service from India. It’s directly in contravention of the World Postal Union’s norms,” Prasad told reporters. “But Pakistan is Pakistan,” Prasad, who is the Minister for Communications and IT, added. He said that Pakistan “without any prior notice or information has stopped sending postal department’s letter to India”. Pakistan has upped the ante against India ever since Parliament withdrew special category status to Jammu and Kashmir by revoking Article 370 of its Constitution.


By Dawn
October 22, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

Beijing sounds warning against foreign interference at annual security forum

China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe delivers a speech at the Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, China. China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe sounded a thinly veiled warning against the United States at a security conference in Beijing, saying that interfering in the internal affairs of others and inciting colour revolutions have led to wars and turbulence in various regions in the world. Such “reckless interference” would not foster harmonious relations, said General Wei on Monday (Oct 21) in his speech to open the conference. Beijing has blamed foreign countries, including the US, for inciting the unrest that has convulsed Hong Kong for five months. It has also


By The Straits Times
October 22, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

Border clash with India leaves 7 dead in Pakistan

Kashmir is becoming an untenable boiling point. At least six civilians and a Pakistani soldier were killed as Indian troops resorted to “indiscriminate and ruthless” shelling from across the Line of Control (LoC) in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), officials said on Sunday. Officials said that nine other civilians were injured, adding that this was the highest death toll in 2019 in a single day of Indian shelling from across the dividing line. Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) notified through a tweet that one soldier had been martyred in the exchange of fire while two others were injured. ISPR added that in response to unprovoked ceasefire violations by India in Jura, Shahkot and Nauseri sectors, nine Indian soldiers were killed while several ot


By Dawn
October 21, 2019