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Politics & Law Series: Expert Comment

'Trump’s Iran deal pull-out could see Europe and US stitch up Iran’

By Professor Inderjeet Parmar, US politics expert and Head of the Department of International Politics


Trump’s repudiation of the strongly supported Iran nuclear agreement suggests to European powers that the US is trying to satisfy its immediate foreign policy aim to roll back Iranian, Russian and possibly Chinese power in the Middle East at a time and manner of US choosing.

This is US hard power on full brutal display, with most blatant disregard for an international agreement that is backed by the most intrusive inspection regime by the IAEA in history, which has certified Iranian compliance. The US has been losing global positions and influence to regional rivals and it is now using its economic and military muscle to try to reverse trends.

I think regime change is the ultimate strategy for the United States in Iran, as well as North Korea. Even European allies are agreed on that – the disagreements are mainly over timing.

Wiggle room for European powers

Yet, the UK, France and Germany have given themselves wiggle room to renegotiate the Iran deal to what they also more quietly support – curbing Iran’s ballistic missile programmes, and rolling back its increased regional influence, as well as getting rid of those sunset clauses of the deal that would allow Iran to re-start its nuclear programmes from the mid to late 2020s.

Macron, Merkel and Johnson have all stated they support for these things. There are between 90 and 180 days until the US sanctions kick in – the US and EU nations could therefore do a deal to stitch up Iran. Scrapping the original agreement could end up being a very smart move on the part of both Trump and the European powers, if they get what they want.

US reputation and public support

On the other hand, Trump’s repudiation and attempt to assert US hard power could have the opposite effect as it alienates allies and US public opinion – over 60 per cent support the Iran deal. Trump says he carries out campaign promises but he also promised no meddling in Middle East and no military interventions there.

He is hardly the first US president to act unilaterally and assert hard power. But he may be the first so brutally to neglect mention of soft power or liberal US values as a driver of its global strategy. And that has lost the US a great deal of global support and damaged its reputation.

Trump’s action clearly empowers Israel and Saudi allies against Iran and opens the way for intensifying military conflict in Syria and Lebanon, and even a regional war. Israel now appears to have a green light to openly attack Iranian forces in Syria and Hamas forces in Lebanon. The Saudis will likely intensify even more their illegal war on Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis.

Professor Inderjeet Parmar is a US politics expert and Head of the Department of International Politics at City, University of London

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