US pullout from Iran deal challenges others too

US pullout from Iran deal challenges others too

Wolfgang Ischinger is the chairman of the Munich Security Conference, perhaps the most prestigious international forum where global foreign policy and security issues have been debated in detail by invitees every February since 1963. It has also been a major channel to promote transatlantic security beyond the bounds of the Western defense alliance NATO, while also being a platform to keep ties between the United States and Europe in place. 

Ischinger posted the following tweet on May 9: “Is the transatlantic alliance dead? If one side refuses to even consider the arguments presented by the other side: Are we still together, as we try to manage challenges to our shared security interests? Or are we now drifting apart for good? Sad questions!”

This message was posted a few hours after U.S. President Donald Trump’s press conference during which he announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

The pullout was something Trump has been talking about since his election campaign in 2016. On May 8, he slammed the deal reached under his predecessor Barack Obama as “horrible,” saying it “should have never, ever been made.” But the point is the deal was not only struck between the U.S. and Iran. It was also between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the U.S., Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France) as well as Germany, named the P5+1.

The last minute efforts of major allies British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron to convince Trump not to withdraw from the deal did not work. In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Macron subsequently said Trump had “opened Pandora’s Box” with his decision. Russia and China openly accused the U.S. of violating an international agreement, while Iran said it would remain loyal to the agreement for the time being amid furious protests in the Iranian Parliament.

Trump’s pullout also suggested to bring back tough economic sanctions against Iran, which may affect not only Iran but all countries who have trade ties with it from Germany to Russia, France and Turkey to China. China, India and South Korea are the top three countries importing oil from Iran for their growth; Turkey, Italy and Japan follow in lesser amounts. (Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan told CNN International it would be the U.S. who would lose from this decision in the end. He called Iran’s Hassan Rouhani to talk about the matter on May 10.) Following Trump’s call, airliner sales for Boeing and Airbus are in jeopardy.

It seems the pullout made two countries really happy: Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Guardian said the decision was Israel’s “dream moment.” Right after Trump’s announcement, Israel started hitting Iranian positions in Syria, finding enough excuses thanks to rockets launched from the other side. The position of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syrian territory to help the Bashar al-Assad regime is something that is not welcomed by most countries in the region. Saudi Arabia, as Iran’s other archenemy, immediately announced it was ready to compensate for any drop in the oil trade due to sanctions on Iran by regulating its production.

Trump’s call gave two important messages to whom it may concern:

1- Trump delivers his threats and promises no matter what others think at the expense of international balances. The first example of him snubbing the EU and the rest of the world was when he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The second one on Iran happened to be in line with Israel’s demands too. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netahyahu and his supporters are happy but will that be in Israel’s interest and bring peace and stability to the already derailed Middle East? I doubt it.

2- With the pullout, Trump opened a dangerous path in international relations. Is there any guarantee Trump will not withdraw from other international agreements that former administrations have signed? Is there any guarantee that Trump or a future U.S. administration will not change minds over a possible agreement in Korea, if it is reached? Didn’t Trump discredit the American signature under international agreements by withdrawing from the Iran deal?

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