U.S. rejection of the nuclear deal would exhaust patience of other P5+1 partners to renegotiate
The Iran deal has been unanimously endorsed by the European Union’s 28 member states. Exchanges over the past month between Iran and Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini have clearly outlined a roadmap for deepening political and economic relations. By reopening its embassy in Tehran on Sunday, the British government sent a strong signal that diplomatic ties with Iran were improving regardless of what moves the US Congress makes.
Europeans are now looking beyond a nuclear-centric vision of Iran to focus on how they can use the opening up to engage Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s administration. Both Iran and Europe are eager to reignite their once-prosperous trade relations, and Europeans would also like to work with Iran to more constructively de-escalate conflicts in the Middle East. This kind of progress can’t be easily undone, and if it is, European policy makers may blame Washington rather than Tehran for prematurely derailing an agreement that was given virtually global acceptance.
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The UN Security Council and our partners around the world agreed to impose costly sanctions against Iran for one reason — to put a stop to its illicit nuclear program. If we changed our terms now and insisted that these countries continue to impose those sanctions on Iran, despite the availability of a diplomatic solution to its nuclear program, they would balk. And we would be left with neither a nuclear deal nor effective sanctions. It is unrealistic to think that additional sanctions pressure would force Iran to totally capitulate — and impractical to believe that we could marshal a global coalition of partners to impose such pressure, after turning down a deal that our partners believe is a good one.
At this point, a “better deal” is an illusion. One can always imagine a better deal. But if the U.S. Congress rejects this agreement and proposes sending Secretary of State John Kerry back to the negotiating table, Kerry will most likely find no one else there. Partners who have negotiated and compromised over 20 months to achieve this accord will conclude that the U.S. government is incapable of making agreements. The international coalition will splinter and the sanctions regime will collapse, with Russia and China leading the way, but with France and Germany not far behind. The United States will have demonstrated that D.C. is in fact an acronym for Dysfunctional Capital. In comparison, Iran will appear to be the adult in this paring.
Rejection of the agreement would severely undermine the U.S. role as a leader and reliable partner around the globe. If Washington walks away from this hard-fought multilateral agreement, its dependability would likely be doubted for decades.
Rejection would also destroy the effective coalition that brought Iran to the negotiating table. China and Russia would likely resume trade with Iran. U.S. allies, unsettled by Washington’s behavior, would move their own separate ways.
The other five negotiators would likely have little stomach for going back to Iran “for a better deal.” The ambassadors of the five countries recently assured members of Congress that their governments would not return to the negotiating table should Washington reject the agreement.
Future sanctions would then have to be largely unilateral U.S. efforts — and less effective. There would be no coalition standing by to restore sanctions or apply other pressures if Iran did not comply. It would also be difficult to develop joint forceful action against Iran should it decide to go for a nuclear weapon.
As the US Congress debates the deal struck between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, many of those who oppose the agreement expect Europeans to fall into line if Washington rejects it. Some US senators, claiming unrealistically that a better deal is possible, think they will be able to persuade or coerce European allies into renegotiating. Their assumption is unlikely to hold, though, and could have damaging repercussions for trans-Atlantic relations. At this stage it would be challenging for the US legislature to reverse the political momentum clearly underway between Europe and Iran.
That’s because after years of intensive nuclear negotiations, an overwhelming number of experts and policymakers in Europe believe that the deal struck in July is as good as it gets. Europe’s most advanced nuclear states, France and Great Britain, have determined that it meets their tough technical standards on non-proliferation. By obsessing over a fantasy alternative, instead of focusing on implementing the deal, members of Congress risk undermining Western unity on Iran and future US-European cooperation over sanctions.
Carl Bildt, the former prime minister of Sweden, argues that if the U.S. pulls out of the Iran nuclear deal, it will further erode relations between the U.S. and the European Union while accomplishing nothing towards promoting U.S. foreign policy goals in the region.
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Former CIA Director David Petraeus said Wednesday that if the U.S. decides to nullify the 2015 deal between Iran and six major powers, the move would likely isolate the U.S. more than it does Tehran.z
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The author tries to discern which direction the incoming Trump administration will go on the Iran deal, arguing that if "either Congress or the American president unravels the deal, other world powers will go their own way with Iran."
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The European Union said on Monday it would keep pushing to restore ties with Iran in line with last year's nuclear deal, which U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has said he will rescind.
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Donald Trump as president will be positioned to swiftly pull the U.S. out of the Obama administration’s landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, as he suggested during his campaign. A much harder task for Mr. Trump, however, is to convince other global powers to join him and dismantle a deal that President Barack Obama says has diminished the threat of another war in the Mideast and opened a path for reduced tensions in the region.
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The author argues that the momentum has already shifted in Europe towards a post-sanctions relationship with Iran and that any effort by the U.S. to reverse that course would pose grave damage to U.S. - E.U. relations.
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