Trump’s Iran deal exit a self-imposed shot in the foot

7:37 pm on 9 May 2018

By Emma Beales *

Opinion - US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran deal is one of the most short-sighted decisions in recent foreign policy history.

US President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington DC, USA, 02 December 2017.

Photo: AFP / Pool via CNP

That is, at least in part, because the decision was more about domestic politics than foreign policy. While the decision may have been taken to placate his American base it does nothing to improve their security at home and undermines global security abroad.

Mr Trump's oft-quoted promises to repeal the deal mirrors similar promises to repeal almost every high-profile deal entered into by the Obama administration: DACA, the Paris Agreement and Affordable Care have all gone the way of the Iran deal.

In scrapping the deal to make way for the unlikely eventuality of a new - better, he says - negotiation, Mr Trump has made the same error he has in the past, one informed by his lack of understanding of the complexity of creating policy, something that takes years of concerted effort and careful diplomacy.

It is perhaps because his primary policy "successes", as he sees them, have involved destroying existing policies rather than building new ones that this is a lesson he remains unable to learn.

While the merits of the Iran deal and the significant sacrifices in foreign policy and security made to secure it have been long debated, there are few in foreign policy circles who would not support the notion that - once in - it was better to remain in.

In his speech, Mr Trump referred to Israeli intelligence as a reason for believing that Iran was not upholding their end of the deal. These claims were repeated by State Department officials in a briefing with journalists after his announcement.

However, aspects of Israeli intelligence shared in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the end of April date back years, according to practitioners-turned-commentators familiar with the materials. What additional evidence, then, justified his actions?

Iranian ascendancy in the Middle East, notably in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon, was also cited as a reason for withdrawing from the deal. While increased Iranian influence and audacity was arguably facilitated by a permissive attitude during the negotiation of the Iran deal, withdrawing from it did nothing to remedy this.

Re-imposing sanctions on Iran may limit their economic prosperity. Mr Trump remained undecided in his speech whether the country was economically weak or enjoying a financial boom as a result of the removal of sanctions.

US President Donald Trump signs a document reinstating sanctions against Iran after announcing the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal.

US President Donald Trump signs a document reinstating sanctions against Iran after announcing the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal. Photo: AFP

Additionally, creating a heavily-sanctioned pariah state of a country that now has influence in several of the world's most complex conflicts can only make them more perilous.

Increased tensions in Syria - most notably between Israel, north Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah - and on the Israel / Lebanon border are likely to continue to ratchet up in the wake of the news.

This is compounded by Israeli fears of an emboldened Hezbollah following last weekend's Lebanese elections. Mr Trump's decision threatens to untether a bubbling dispute which, if unleashed, will have explosive consequences across the region.

US allies, with the exception of Saudi Arabia, have been quick to condemn the decision. Already nervous about their working relationship on global affairs with an unpredictable and often irrational Trump-led America, allies have been pleading the case for the US staying in the deal over recent months and weeks, to no avail.

France, Germany, and the UK, have all expressed regret that the US has withdrawn, and will seek to ensure that the deal remains in place, something Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced last night he was committed to trying to make work.

European companies have rebuilt commercial ties with Iran over the last two years, following the removal of sanctions, and may not be so willing to withdraw at America's behest. If France, Germany, and the UK, are able to negotiate a continuation of the deal, and fight back against US sanctions, it may be the States, not Iran, that is seen in the darker light when the dust settles.

*Emma Beals is an award-winning independent journalist who has focused on the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the rise of ISIS since 2012.

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