Iran: So What Now?
It Wasn’t Difficult To Predict Trump Would Pull U.S. Out Of Iran Deal. What Happens Next Is.
The “will-he-or-won’t-he” hype fostered by many in the media, and encouraged by Trump himself, turned out to be a bunch of BS.
In a brief speech in which he seemed to stick almost entirely to script, Trump promised the “highest level of economic sanction” against Iran or any country supporting Iran, without specifying exactly what that means. He also characterized Iranian citizens as “hostages” to a “dictatorship”, which continues to astound us since he’s sending the exact opposite message to North Korea: there, he apparently doesn’t care about human rights and isn’t advocating regime change. Here’s a clip (click on the photo to watch):
When we first discussed the withdrawal in detail about two weeks ago, we were critical of now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s contention that Trump’s action might not spur Iran to accelerate its nuclear program in retaliation. In our piece entitled “Thinking Trump Might Not Back Out Of Iran Deal Is Pie In The Sky”, we said even though we’re not Iran, that’s what we would do.
But now we’re thinking maybe we were wrong: the real power move here might be to try to keep the deal intact, with the U.S. isolated, on the outside.
Iran right now is talking about both: Iran’s President Rouhani said he will talk to the deal’s other signatories about keeping it together, but will also resume uranium enrichment if that doesn’t work out.
Those signatories include Russia and China, who already have a close relationship with Iran, and so might even stand to benefit from the U.S. bowing out. If they’re at the center of a major global security accord that does not include the U.S., their political and economic influence will continue to expand in the region. This is especially crucial to Russia’s aspirations in Syria, and China’s efforts to build a new Silk Road, bridging Asia and Europe via the Mideast.
Even countries more closely allied with the U.S., like France could benefit from the pact continuing. For instance, if the nearly $20-billion contract for Boeing aircraft that’s part of the freshly-killed deal now goes over to Airbus. (And we’ve mentioned several times that France’s President Macron now seems to be the go-to guy when there are diplomatic issues in the Mideast that require mediation from the West, not Trump). A Tweet from Macron seems to strongly indicate it’d be his preference to stay in:
But that could also create new conflicts with allies: in his brief speech, Trump included threats to extend sanctions to any nation that does business with Iran. That means Trump could forbid a French company from doing business in the U.S. if it does business with Iran. This approach actually worked well for him recently in pressuring China to comply with U.S. sanctions against North Korea.