The US has no real alternative to the present Iran nuclear deal | editorials | Hindustan Times
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The US has no real alternative to the present Iran nuclear deal

The Trump administration may feel Iran has been given too free a rein given its record of violating its international treaty obligations on nuclear issues. But it has provided no real alternative to the present Iran nuclear deal. It has also provided no evidence Tehran is in violation of the deal, even though the US refusal to follow other countries and lift sanctions against Iran is violative of the spirit of the agreement.

editorials Updated: Sep 04, 2017 23:53 IST
Activists take part in a rally to commemorate the nuclear deal with Iran in front of the White House, on July 14, 2017 in Washington, DC
Activists take part in a rally to commemorate the nuclear deal with Iran in front of the White House, on July 14, 2017 in Washington, DC (AFP)

The US-Iran nuclear deal lives to fight another day. The International Atomic Energy Agency last week once again certified Iran was in compliance with the nuclear agreement that Tehran signed with six other countries, an agreement that officially goes under the snappy title Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The IAEA’s continued green light is important because it denies legitimacy to United States President Donald Trump’s hostility to the Iran nuclear deal. Trump has repeatedly spoken of his desire to abrogate the deal.

The IAEA did have points of disagreement with Iran. Specifically, the two disagreed on whether the agency had the right to inspect Iranian military nuclear sites. Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, insisted such sites were “off limits”. The agency’s director, Yukiya Amano, diplomatically said the IAEA had the right to inspect all “relevant locations” but would only ask for military sites if it had reason to believe they were home to any nuclear activity that violated the agreement. Washington has seized on this point of difference, but has not provided any evidence of Iranian nuclear hankypanky.

The importance of the Iran nuclear deal cannot be stressed enough. While it allows Iran the right to enrich uranium, it keeps the weaponisation of its nuclear capability on hold for a decade in return for a lifting of international economic sanctions. Without the agreement, Tehran would be free to pursue nuclear weapons and the international community would face two bad options. One would be to accept Iran as a de facto nuclear weapons state with the likelihood this would trigger a nuclear scramble among other regional powers including Saudi Arabia. The other would be to carry out military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities, with the hugely disruptive consequences that would follow – including a wider regional war and a superspike in global oil prices.

The Trump administration may feel Iran has been given too free a rein given its record of violating its international treaty obligations on nuclear issues. But it has provided no real alternative to the present Iran nuclear deal. It has also provided no evidence Tehran is in violation of the deal, even though the US refusal to follow other countries and lift sanctions against Iran is violative of the spirit of the agreement. Fortunately, the US seems to accept the weakness of its case: Trump has twice certified that Iran is in compliance to the US Congress. But the US president’s attitude and the potential for disagreement on Iran’s military sites is a reminder that stability in the Persian Gulf has weak roots.