Trump scraps Iran deal: five risks to world security

Tensions rising in Middle East and the West following the decision

Donald Trump
(Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s decision to remove the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - or the Iran nuclear deal, as it is known - is already having a ripple effect around the world.

“Its ramifications have immediately been felt, despite the insistence of the European signatories to the deal that they will keep it alive,” says the New Statesman’s Patrick Maguire.

Here are five security risks emanating from the US exit:

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A new wedge between the US and Europe

Trump's decision to scrap the accord has angered Europe, which entered into the deal along with the US and Iran during the Barack administration. By essentially showing that the US does not keep its word, “Trump’s decision will test his already frayed relationship with European leaders”, says The New York Times’s Mark Landler.

“France, Germany, and the UK regret the US decision to leave the JCPOA. The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted last night.

Theresa May, Angela Merkel and Macron are all urging Trump not to obstruct the deal’s implementation regardless of America’s involvement. However, Brett Bruen, a former staffer in Obama’s National Security Council, argues in an article for the New Statesman that the departure of the US is a huge obstruction to the normal flow of power politics in the region and “marks the end of an American era and the beginning of an era governed by uncertainty and instability”.

Ratcheting tensions in the Middle East

Within hours of Trump’s announcement there were reports of an Israeli missile attack on an Iranian military base in Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes targeted depots and rocket launchers that probably belonged to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards in Kisweh. Nine people are reported to have been killed in the attack.

Tensions remain high as a result of the ongoing proxy war being fought between Israel and Iran, and analysts believe Trump’s decision could make relations between the two nations “much, much worse”, says Vox.

The nuclear deal had been keeping Iran “in check from responding to repeated Israeli strikes on its interests in Syria”, says Michael J. Koplow on Israeli news site Haaretz. But the “US walkout means a full-on Israel-Iran war in Syria now becomes far more likely”.

Disrupting oil markets

Oil prices jumped and energy-linked stocks immediately climbed following news of the US withdrawal from the deal.

“Iran is OPEC’s [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] third-largest producer… While the US does not import any Iranian oil, the return of US sanctions will penalise countries that have not significantly reduced their crude purchases from Iran,” UBS analysts told the Financial Times. As a result, the group said they expected Trump’s move to “push Brent [oil] higher, and lead to increased volatility over coming months”.

“The consumers are going to shoulder the bill,” Greg Sharenow, an executive vice-president at investment management firm PIMCO, told Time magazine.

“The US economy will face headwinds from prices that will come as a natural result of this.”

Strengthening hardliners in Iran

As a result of Trump’s actions, Iran will lose a valuable financial lifeline as the country deals with a failing economy. “The chief loser will be the country’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, who now looks weakened, foolish and burned for the risk he took in dealing with the Americans,” says The New York Times’s Thomas Erdbrink.

“Trump has has played into the hands of hardliners in Iran,” according to Ali Khorram, a former Iranian ambassador to China and an adviser to the nuclear negotiating team.

Trump said it was impossible to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the structure of the agreement, but “in trashing it, he may well have given Iran the means, motive and opportunity to produce it sooner than expected”, says the New Statesman’s Maguire.

Worries over Washington's credibility in future negotiations

Democrat lawmakers and other supporters of the Iran deal have argued for months that Trump scrapping the accord could imperil diplomatic efforts with North Korea, by sending the message that the US cannot be trusted to keep its word.

Frank Rose, a former arms control official at the US State Department, told Vox: “If I were the North Koreans, and Trump pulled out of the deal with Iran, why should I make an agreement?”

It is unclear how much of an impact Trump’s decision will have on those talks, however, since “the prospects of the North Koreans giving up their nuclear weapons are very, very slim”, Rose added.

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