A number of world leaders, with the exception of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have expressed regret and concern about US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.
Trump wanted to pull out of the agreement because he is dissatisfied with its “sunset clause”, under which Iran would be allowed to resume uranium enrichment after 2025.
He is also unhappy that the Iran nuclear deal didn’t forbid Tehran from continuing with its ballistic missile program.
We believe that Trump’s decision to quit the deal is a very bad one. It would not only have profound and negative implications for the Middle East; it could also undermine the prospects of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.
In the worst case scenario, Iran would retaliate by restarting to enrich even more uranium and pulling out of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons altogether. As a result, the entire Middle East would once again be haunted by the nuclear threat.
Fortunately, Iran doesn’t appear prepared to go to such extremes, at least for now. President Hassan Rouhani has changed his tone and vowed that his country would continue to stick to the deal despite America’s withdrawal.
But even if Tehran isn’t going to quit the deal and resume its nuclear program, it still has a lot of means at its disposal to retaliate against Washington.
For example, it could incite armed rebels in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to unleash new waves of attacks, thereby throwing the whole region into disarray again.
Apart from the potential danger of Iran’s retaliation, Trump’s decision to quit the agreement may also create another problem for the United States itself: it might jeopardize its chances of reaching an agreement of denuclearization with North Korea in his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un.
The fact that Washington has just blatantly breached an international agreement despite intense opposition from its allies would inevitably raise grave concerns in Pyongyang as to whether the US would stick to whatever deal is reached during the Trump-Kim summit.
North Korea has been notorious for violating international agreements in the past. However, it is the US this time that has violated a major international agreement, thereby adding even more variables to the already not so promising Trump-Kim summit.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 10
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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