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Chaitanya Chauhan asked: What interests does the Trump administration holds in Iran? What are the key strategic and economic dimensions to it?

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  • S. Samuel C. Rajiv replies: Donald Trump, even prior to assuming office in January 2017, held that the Iran nuclear deal – formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – negotiated by the Barack Obama administration along with Russia, France, Germany, United Kingdom and China (the P5+1) in July 2015, was a ‘disastrous deal’ and one of his first tasks after taking over as president would be to dismantle it. Later, in October 2017, President Trump refused to certify Iranian compliance with the deal — which he was required to do as per the provisions of a domestic US legislation. In May 2018, Trump finally announced the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. This subsequently led to the re-imposition of secondary sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports, among other measures. Since then, his administration has announced additional restrictive measures against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.  

    The US insists that Iran has to renegotiate the terms of the deal, including those related to access for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to Iran’s nuclear facilities and the JCPOA ‘sunset’ clauses, and agree to restrictive measures against its ballistic missile programme (which is not covered by the nuclear deal) as well as desist from its allegedly destabilising role in the region. As the IAEA has been certifying that Iran has lived up to its commitments as part of the JCPOA, Iran insists that it cannot be forced to renegotiate an international agreement that it has been following and which has been approved by the UN Security Council.

    While the European Union has taken steps to put in place alternative channels to facilitate humanitarian transactions like the INSTEX — Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, Iran has been demanding that such mechanisms should also include oil exports. Recent incidents of oil tankers being targeted in the Persian Gulf have occurred in the backdrop of an increased US military build-up in the region. Efforts to find a common ground among the parties, including by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who visited Tehran in July 2019, have not succeeded. While the threat of unilateral secondary sanctions measures has hurt the Iranian economy, the rising brinkmanship is detrimental to the interests of the countries of the region and beyond.  

    Posted on July 03, 2019

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.