Russia, China, and Europe warn they will not punish Iran for abiding by treaty, and despite the fact President Trump has said he “personally believes” Iran has not kept to its part of the bargain, diplomats worldwide have warned the White House that wrecking the deal would “set the Middle East on fire.”
By Richard Walker
The White House may be planning to wreck the Iran nuclear deal in a move that many experts believe would have the potential to lead to a major war. Moscow, one of the signatories to the 2015 deal with Iran, has privately warned the White House that moves to undermine the deal or to wreck it could lead to a conflict that would set the Middle East on fire and have ramifications well beyond the region. China and the European Union (EU) have expressed similar sentiments in coded messages to Washington diplomats.
The 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was negotiated by Russia, China, France, Germany, and Britain. It permitted regular inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to ensure Iran was not producing materials to make nuclear weapons. All parties to the deal, except the new Trump administration, agree that Iran has abided by the terms of the deal.
President Donald Trump said he “personally believes” Iran has not kept to its part of the bargain. However, he has offered no evidence to support his personal conjecture, a position hardly worthy of a U.S. president in respect to such a serious issue.
A British diplomat, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity this summer in Europe, expressed concern that a cabal within the Trump White House was aligning itself with pro-Israel and pro-Saudi elements on Capitol Hill and in Washington to scupper the Iran deal.
“The shocking part of this,” he remarked, “is that if we could negotiate a similar deal with North Korea there would be celebrations in every major capital, and the world would be a safer place. The idea that a group that hates Iran wants to take us down this road is ridiculous.”
A source with intimate knowledge of the Kremlin was more blunt when this writer asked about rumors that the Trump administration was bent on punishing Iran with more sanctions to kill the deal.
“The only outcome of such a policy is that Iran will no longer be constrained from pursuing a nuclear device. The only way to stop that will be to bomb its whole nuclear infrastructure. That’s what some elements in Washington, Tel Aviv, and Riyadh are hoping for, but they might not like the outcome in the long term. In the short term, there is an effort to get access to Iranian military sites for so-called inspections with the plan to put them on a future Israeli targeting list.”
The rumors about a White House plan to take down the Iran deal have not been merely speculative. Recently, Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, paid a private visit to IAEA headquarters in Geneva seeking information to confirm Trump’s personal feeling that Iran was breaking the deal. By all accounts she came away from the visit with no incriminating data. Nevertheless, she confirmed what Moscow was seeing through its own sources.
Leading neoconservative John Bolton, who has campaigned against any rapprochement with Iran over the years, has made it clear publicly that he advised the president to abandon the nuclear deal and take a tougher line with Iran.
Bolton’s views are shared by many on Capitol Hill. They talk about Iran being a clear and present danger, a view not shared by Russia, China or the EU, but very definitely by Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Kaveh Afrasiabi, who advised Iran during the nuclear negotiations, believes Washington is already in breach of the 2015 agreement by imposing new sanctions on Iran when all the other parties accept that Iran is compliant. He has pointed out something that is not mentioned by the mainstream media: Since the deal was struck, EU corporations have benefited tremendously by negotiating billion-dollar contracts with Iran whereas the Trump administration has “self-sanctioned” U.S. corporations that have been willing to sell everything from planes to cars to Iran.
That, he says, is why the EU will not toe the Washington line on Iran and neither will China or Russia, leaving the U.S. potentially isolated if it goes it alone to destroy the agreement.
According to Afrasiaba, Washington had turned over its Iran policy to D.C. hardliners. His view is one shared in many Western capitals and especially in Moscow, where there is a growing fear that Trump will adopt an Israeli view of Iran that could drag Russia into a conflict on the side of Iran.
The growing antagonism toward Iran comes at a time when Iran has played a major role with Russia in defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria. That has convinced some Israeli hardliners and the Saudis, along with neocons in Washington, that Iran has too much influence. But Russia’s growing role in the region could well ensure that the hardliners in Washington, Tel Aviv, and Riyadh may not get their wish to see Iran bombed.
Richard Walker is the nom de plume of a former New York mainstream news producer who grew tired of seeing his articles censored by his bosses.