There have been widespread expressions of dismay and disbelief at the decision of Mr Trump to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which has, on the face of things at least, held in check Iran’s aspirations to develop nuclear weapons.
Under the terms of the deal, Iran agreed to limit the size of its stockpile of enriched uranium and also the number of centrifuges available to carry out the enrichment for 15 and 10 years respectively. However, supporters of Mr Trump, notably Israel, say that the curbs were meaningless and have in any case been flouted in spite of the regime of international inspections. They point to the fact that Iran was still able to develop ballistic missiles and that the release of funds and removal of many sanctions have allowed Iran to finance increased levels of international terrorism.
The US will now re-impose sanctions over a period of several months in what they describe as a “wind-down period”. For its part, Iran has said that if it cannot get some form of alternative agreement in place with the rest of the nations who had been part of the agreement, then it will start up its enrichment processes again.
Just what sort of alternative agreement will be acceptable to Iran remains to be seen. It is also a matter of some doubt as to how the US would view such a move by its major allies, the UK, France and Germany. The US National Security Advisor lost no time in stating categorically that European companies engaged in business with Iran will now have to cease their trade within six month or face US sanctions. It would appear to be almost impossible for those countries to accept such sanctions without serious diplomatic consequences if they were to be imposed after a new, alternative, deal had been agreed.
The other signatories to the agreement, Russia and China, have both indicated their concerns about the US move. The only other significant supporter of the withdrawal is Saudi Arabia – which is Iran’s single most important rival in the Middle East.
Many informed observers are now saying that the move has significantly reduced stability in the region and that, in the wake of recent reductions in tensions in the Korean Peninsula, it flies in the face of all diplomatic logic.