The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a landmark agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear programme is more fragile than ever before. While Tehran is not entirely responsible for abandoning the JCPOA, it will be single-handedly blamed for the consequences. Already, Iran is paying for President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal and the sanctions that have been slapped since then.
The move has virtually crippled every sector of the Iranian economy. Now, as Iran takes another step to breach the rules by taking its low-enriched uranium limit over the agreed threshold, the situation could lead to more isolation. On the other hand, this latest retaliatory action by Tehran also provides uber-hawks like National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo another chance to coerce the unpredictable Trump into launching a military action.
Alternately, the Trump administration that is known for its bullying tactics may trigger the snap back provisions of the sanctions. But for that Washington would need to convince the European signatories to the nuclear deal to harden their stance toward Tehran. And for now, there is little political will for that on the European side. Greater isolation for Tehran or even military action is no solution at this point. Perhaps both sides need to think carefully before they take the next step. The regime’s narrative in Tehran largely benefits from the imposition of more western sanctions — but the people continue to suffer.
The real casualties in the ongoing conflict are the citizens of Iran and the country’s shrinking economy. And the real winners in Washington and Tehran are the hardliners. By now the US should know that its policy of ratcheting up pressure or even the Trump-style bullying is not helping. Both sides need to engage and find a diplomatic solution to deescalate the situation without any preconditions.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2019.