US President Trump has pushed Iran to forego its remaining commitments under the JCPOA after authorising the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, according to Dr Mohammed Nuruzzaman, Associate Professor of International Relations at Gulf University for Science and Technology, Kuwait.
Sputnik: Iran announced on Sunday in a statement that it was discontinuing its remaining obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal. How will this affect the JCPOA itself and what response can we expect from Europe and other countries in the deal?
Dr Mohammed Nuruzzaman: The 2015 Iran nuclear deal turned into a defunct deal soon after the Trump administration ditched it in May 2018. For its part, Iran did not hurriedly withdraw from the deal for two reasons: Tehran wanted to show the world, and thus have global public support on its side and hold onto the moral ground, that it was not the deal violator but the US; similarly, it planned to allow the European signatories, who were half-hearted in resisting US pressures, the chance to revive the JCPOA and make it work for Iran. Nothing meaningful has happened, unfortunately. Iran’s gradual shaking off of the restrictions imposed by the deal was expected regardless of how the European parties to the deal reacted. Finally, President Trump’s foolish decision to assassinate General Qasem Soleimani has brought for Iran “nuclear freedom” – the freedom to pursue nuclear interests free of external constraints.
Sputnik: The Iraqi Parliament has vowed to end the foreign military presence in the country. What does this mean for the US and its allies in the region?
Dr Mohammed Nuruzzaman: The Shia-dominated government in Iraq has over the years become a steadfast ally of Iran, much to the chagrin of the US. The current spate of heightened tensions and war-threatening crisis in Iran-US relations principally revolve around this issue. The Iraqi Parliament’s decision to expel foreign troops (read mainly US troops) came as a bolt from the blue for the Trump administration, and frustrations in Washington ran really high. A US withdrawal from Iraq means a major political and strategic victory for Iran, a significant expansion in Tehran’s sphere of influence practically linking it up to the eastern Mediterranean coasts of Syria and Lebanon. The US’ waning power and influence in Iraq also weakens America’s Gulf allies, particularly Saudi Arabia which is currently locked in serious competition with Iran for regional power and influence.
Sputnik: For this decision, Trump threatened Iraq with sanctions; on what grounds and how justified is this in the first place?
Dr Mohammed Nuruzzaman: Trump and the war hawks in the White House have somehow become habituated to threatening every independent-minded or unfriendly nation with sanctions. Hardly do they care about global economic rules and regulations or international law. This has proved a dangerous foreign policy behavioural pattern, an erratic course of actions the global public can barely accept. There is no legal ground to impose sanctions on Iraq if it chooses to expel American troops, in line with its sovereign decision to do so. The re-imposition of sanctions on Baghdad, reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s years, will further push Iraq to the side of Iran and present Tehran with the opportunity to break the cycle of sanctions jointly with Baghdad.
Sputnik: Pompeo has blasted Europe for its mute reactions to the killing of General Soleimani. How will this affect cooperation between Washington and Europe?
Dr Mohammed Nuruzzaman: Pompeo definitely expected Europe to defend Trump’s illegal decision to kill General Soleimani on dubious grounds. But Europeans did not follow suit mainly because of the nuances in their diverse approaches to relations with Iran. They saw and still see Trump’s decision to kill the nuclear deal as the principal reason for rising endless tensions in Iran-US relations. At the same time, Europeans have stood by the US in times of serious crises plaguing American leadership in the Middle East or elsewhere. In fact, Britain, France, and Germany were quick to condemn Iran’s missile attacks on two US military bases in Iraq on 8 January. The fissures in Euro-American relations are expected to heal in the coming weeks and months, as was the case with declining Euro-Atlantic relations in the wake of the illegal US invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Sputnik: What further steps can we expect from Washington and Iraq? How will the situation develop in the near future?
Dr Mohammed Nuruzzaman: The emerging pattern is controlled escalations. Every rhetoric and escalation is soon followed by some de-escalatory measures. Neither is Tehran nor Washington interested in a full-scale war. Trump’s address to the American people on 8 January emphasised more economic sanctions on Iran and also the need for strategic cooperation with Iran to keep fighting their common enemy – Daesh*. Simultaneously, the room for diplomacy is also shrinking to a point of no return. The real danger lies here. Few people will be surprised if the Americans and the Iranians start a war tomorrow. The possibility of war cannot totally be ruled out.
Sputnik: Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has suggested voting on Trump under the war power rules. What outcomes can we expect?
Dr Mohammed Nuruzzaman: Voting on Trump under the War Power Act sounds a remote possibility now if that happens at all. The primary pressures will come from US defence and foreign policy establishment. The argument may be that amidst a highly volatile situation in the Middle East it will be a wrong step to tie the hands of the president in his approach to deal with Iran and other enemies in the region. Pelosi is also running a high profile case of impeachment against Trump. Probably, the vote to reduce Trump’s war power may come up once the crisis with Iran defuses, not under the current dangerous situation.
* Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/IS/Islamic State) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia