President Trump has fulfilled a campaign promise he made during the 2016 General Election by withdrawing the United States from Obama’s Iran Deal. His reasons for doing so are understandable. The Iran Deal was a small but significant step in curbing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions, but it was also flawed in many other ways.
The Obama administration argued the Iran Deal guaranteed that the time frame for Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb increased from two to three months to one year. They also boasted the agreement reduced Iran’s stockpiles of enriched uranium and cut the nation’s number of centrifuges by two-thirds. Other victories that President Obama supposedly secured included preventing Iran from producing weapons-grade plutonium and allowing the US to track their nuclear activities with robust transparency and inspections.
However, Obama failed to exploit this opportunity to the full, which made it easy for Trump to attack the agreement during his election campaign. The Islamic Republic continues to fund terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. Under Obama’s watch, the State Department was attacked for an explicit link between a $400 million payment and the release of prisoners like American citizen Robin Shahini. David Ibsen, President of United Against Nuclear Iran, said this move proved the Obama administration was rewarding- not thwarting- Iran’s treatment of prisoners. Since he was elected to office, Donald Trump scrapped the Iran Deal for those reasons.
The question remains as to what the Trump administration intends to replace the Iran Deal with. Whilst this agreement was far from perfect, it provided a framework for future administrations to build on. The President was right to fulfil a campaign promise, but by failing to replace the Iran Deal, the likelihood of war has increased. As Daniel McCarthy wrote in The Spectator, Trump is smarter than his predecessors, who tarnished America’s reputation by involving the US in the failed Iraq and Libya invasions. The current President is much more peaceful than Bush and Obama and he is cleverer than them because he is good at reading the mood of the nation. And it is unlikely many Trump supporters do not desire another American military intervention. After all, Trump was elected on the premise that he would be ‘different’ to his predecessors.
For all his intelligence, the President is failing to dilute the growing tension between Iran and America. Trump tweeted a warning to Iran that they should not threaten the US or else it would face its ‘official end.’ The Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, accused the President of ‘genocidal taunts’ and ‘economic terrorism.’ Yet the Trump administration still has an opportunity to prevent a conflict between the Islamic Republic and the US and expand upon the Iran Deal with something more substantial.
Trump could initiate an agreement with his Western allies that implements thresholds preventing companies from trading with Iran. The European Union declared its intention of continuing trade with the Islamic Republic following the President’s withdrawal from the agreement last year.
The Trump administration could make the argument that a lack of sanctions only benefits the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, which is intertwined with 35 percent of Iran’s economy.
He could also instruct the Treasury to clarify that offshored dollarised transactions would be subject to American jurisdiction. Currently, transactions between an Iranian company and a European bank are outside the US’s jurisdiction. The President could urge his allies to end Iran’s access to the US dollar, thereby preventing them from investing in the US. He could also adopt a more assertive stance to companies re-entering Iranian markets.
The President has an opportunity to end the Iranian threat without war. He just needs to do so in time. He must persuade his NATO allies to support him, because they currently see no benefit in ending the 2015 Iran Deal.