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Target Tehran: on USA's sanctions on Iran
Posted:Jul 19, 2017
 
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The U.S. administration’s decision to slap sanctions on 18 Iranian individuals and entities on Tuesday, only a day after it certified to Congress that Tehran was compliant with the conditions of the nuclear deal, sums up its strategic resolve in taking on the Islamic Republic and the tactical dilemma it faces while doing so. It is no secret that President Donald Trump has been critical of the Iran nuclear deal, which ended the international sanctions on Tehran in return for curbing its nuclear programme. During the campaign, Mr. Trump had vowed to either kill or renegotiate the agreement. But as President, his options are limited with Iran remaining compliant with the terms of the agreement. 
 
More important, it is not a bilateral pact. The nuclear deal was reached among seven entities, including the U.S., Russia, Germany and Iran. Any unilateral move to withdraw from the agreement would hurt American interests as European countries are keen on expanding economic ties with Iran. This explains why a reluctant Mr. Trump has re-certified the dealtwice since his inauguration in January. But on both occasions, he slapped additional sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile programme and “support for terrorism”, signalling that the Obama-era détente with Tehran was over. Administration officials are now saying Iran may be compliant with the terms but it is “unquestionably in default of the spirit” of the agreement.
 
This is an overstretched argument, given that all international monitors say Iran remains committed to the deal. The logical next step of the nuclear agreement should have been an overall improvement in relations between the West and Tehran. Barack Obama had set the stage for such a policy overhaul and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had responded to it, but Mr. Trump, in six months, has taken Washington’s Iran policy back to Republican neoconservatism. Besides sanctions, Mr. Trump has also endorsed the Saudi-led Sunni bloc’s attempts to isolate Iran. His policy priorities are now clear. 
 
The administration will align with Saudi Arabia and Israel, continue to target Iran through sanctions and even try to undermine the nuclear deal in the long term. This is a dangerous turn of events since the historic moment of April 2, 2015, when the framework for the nuclear pact was announced. But this policy of containing Iran could backfire as Iran has already established itself as a rising regional power with substantial geopolitical clout. To stabilise Iraq, the U.S. needs Iran’s help. And there won’t be a long-lasting peace deal in Syria without Iran’s participation and cooperation. If the U.S. is serious about working towards peace and stability in West Asia, it should reciprocate Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, not punish it through additional sanctions. It should also act as a mediator between Saudi Arabia and Iran, instead of taking sides in a destabilising cold war in West Asia.
 
 
 
 
 
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