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Obama Chides Trump Over Iran Nuclear Deal Pullout

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Former US president Barack Obama, whose administration successfully negotiated the Iran deal, has described President Donald Trump’s pullout from the pact as “misguided.”

Obama’s criticism came yesterday after President Trump pulled the United States out of an international agreement aimed at stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb, saying he would re-impose economic sanctions on Tehran immediately.

The decision is likely to raise the risk of conflict in the Middle East, upset America’s European allies and disrupt global oil supplies. The immediate impact of Trump’s action on Nigeria is the likely skyrocketing oil price and the increase in the demand for Nigerian oil.

The hasty invitation of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari to the White house fortnight ago,  analysts say, might be one of the prelude to the decision of Trump administration to pull out of Iran deal.

Negotiated in July 2015, the deal, officially dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), stipulated that Iran rid itself of nuclear fuel if the United States waived sanctions that had been crippling the nation’s economy. As part of the deal, a UN nuclear agency would monitor Iran’s fidelity to the agreement and, thus far, the agency has determined that Iran has complied. After 10 years, restrictions on research and development would lighten, and after 15 years, Iran would be able to produce nuclear fuel, but not in service of a weapons programme. Along with the lack of a provision preventing Iran from testing ballistic missiles, this “sunset clause” has been pointed to by Trump as one of the principle reasons the deal is a “disaster.”

Most supporters of the deal have acknowledged its flaws, but have advocated working to amend the terms rather that starting from scratch. Trump’s insistence on blowing the deal up may prove problematic, though, as Iran has stated that it is not willing to start negotiating an entirely new deal. This leaves the United States with no agreement, and leaves the rest of the world – the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China all signed onto the deal, as well – fearing the worst.

“We would open the Pandora’s box,” French President Emmanuel Macron recently told German paper Der Spiegel of the impact of the U.S. pulling out of the deal. “There could be war.”

Obama, whose administration logs the Iran nuclear as one of its major foreign policy achievements, thinks reneging on the agreement is a mistake.

He said, “At a time when we are all rooting for diplomacy with North Korea to succeed, walking away from the JCPOA risks losing a deal that accomplishes – with Iran – the very outcome that we are pursuing with the North Koreans.

“That is why today’s announcement is so misguided. Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated. In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one administration to the next. But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.”

He also provided a five point rebuttal to Trump administration criticisms of the Iran agreement, including Trump’s claim Iran was building a nuclear programme in violation of the agreement.

“The JCPOA does not rely on trust – it is rooted in the most far-reaching inspections and verification regime ever negotiated in an arms control deal,” Obama said.

“Because of these facts, I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake,” Obama said. “Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East.”

However, U.S President Trump thinks the deal was a bad one.

“This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” Trump said at the White House. “It didn’t bring calm. It didn’t bring peace. And it never will.”

The 2015 deal, worked out by the Obama’s administration, five other international powers and Iran, eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear programme.

Trump says the agreement, the signature foreign policy achievement of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, does not address Iran’s ballistic missile programme, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 nor its role in conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

Trump said he was willing to negotiate a new deal with Iran, but Tehran has already ruled that out and threatened unspecified retaliation if Washington pulled out.

Iranian state television said on Tuesday that Trump’s decision to withdraw was “illegal, illegitimate and undermines international agreements.”

Renewing sanctions would make it much harder for Iran to sell its oil abroad or use the international banking system.

The Iran deal may remain partially intact, even without the United States.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested on Monday that Iran could remain in the accord with the other signatories that stay committed to it.

Trump’s move is a snub to European allies such as France, Britain and Germany who are also part of the Iran deal and tried hard to convince the US president to preserve it. The Europeans must now scramble to decide their own course of action with Tehran.

China and Russia are also signatories to the Iran deal.

Oil prices dived as much as 4 percent on Tuesday as media reports rattled markets with doubts about whether Trump would withdraw Washington.

Trump did not provide details of what he described as the “highest level of economic sanctions” that he is reimposing on Iran.

Analyst say, the bone of contention is the concern for the safety of Israel, if Iran acquires nuclear power. There is also the thinking that, the regional rivalry between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran may have Informed Trump’s decision.

Implication Of U.S. Pullout of Iran Nuclear Deal

1.  Iran is now free to build a nuclear bomb

Since the deal took effect in October 2015, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency has kept close tabs on the degree to which Iran has upheld its promise to suspend its nuclear weapons program. The nation’s former uranium enrichment plants are monitored constantly, dust samples are collected that are then analyzed for traces of nuclear activity and tips are investigated as to sites of suspicious activity within Iran. This element of oversight was a lynchpin of the agreement, as it has ensured there is virtually no way for Iran to even begin developing a nuclear weapon. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has called the verification process “robust.”

The IAEA offers an unprecedented degree of transparency into the Iran’s nuclear capabilities, an invaluable safeguard considering Iran’s history as an untrustworthy adversary. With this safeguard removed, Iran would be free to renew its nuclear weapons program, and the United States would have no way of monitoring whether they are developing weapons. As some have pointed out, this could pave the way for an invasion.

Part of what has emboldened Trump to renege is the departures of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster – who both encouraged the president to uphold the deal – with Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, respectively, who have both been critical of it. Bolton was involved in a similar situation 15 years ago before the United States invaded Iraq.

Iran’s capability to build a bomb would also incentivize other Middle Eastern nations to pursue nuclear weapons programs. “What has been gained from the nuclear deal? Imagine all the mutually contaminating civil wars and internecine conflicts that rage across the Middle East today. Then turn the dial and add the possibility of a regional nuclear arms race triggered by Iran dashing for a bomb,” wrote British foreign secretary Boris Johnson in a recent op-ed for the New York Times. “That is the scenario which the agreement has helped to prevent.”

2. Trump’s decision will likely alienate allies

Though brokered by the Obama administration, the Iran deal is very much an international accord, and the implications of Trump’s refusal to waive sanctions on Iran come the May 12th deadline will be wide-ranging. In recent weeks, representatives from the United Kingdom, France and Germany have all visited the U.S. in an effort to convince Trump to preserve the deal, acknowledging its flaws but pleading with the president to consider working to fix or amend the agreement rather than dissolving it entirely. Boris Johnson even attempted to appeal to Trump by saying that a Nobel Peace Prize could be a possibility if the president were able to fix the Iran deal and negotiate something similar with North Korea.

Though Trump has removed the United States from the deal, allies in Europe have committed to upholding it, and the reinstatement of sanctions may result in tension between the U.S. and those it relies on most. It could also cause a rift with China and Russia, who have also encouraged the United States to remain in the deal, warning of the geopolitical insecurity that would ensue should the deal be scrapped. As was the case when Trump removed the United States from the Paris Accords last summer, scrapping the Iran deal would be a significant blow to its standing as an international leader.

3. The abandonment may hinder an impending deal with North Korea

Reimposing sanctions on Iran would be Trump’s most consequential foreign policy manoeuvre yet, but a meeting with Kim Jong-un looms large. For Trump to pull out of a deal that by all accounts Iran is complying with, could make North Korea wary of entering into a similar deal with the United States.

Trump has used every superlative in the book in criticizing the Iran deal. If he wants to broker an agreement that would result in the denuclearization of North Korea, he’s going to have to devise something even more advantageous for the U.S. than the Iran deal that North Korea will also agree to. This seems farfetched, to say the least.

Along with his Tuesday afternoon announcement that the United States would remove itself from the Iran deal, Trump told the nation that newly minted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on his way to North Korea to work on the terms for the president’s upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un. “Plans are being made, relationships are building, and hopefully a deal will happen,” Trump said.



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