While many people believe that it is not unlikely for Trump to take this step, others believe that it is unlikely that Iran has the intention to respond in a strong and escalatory manner if the US were to scrap the agreement or imposes sanctions on the IRGC
by Nasser Qandil – al Bina
Will Trump dare to withdraw from the nuclear agreement? Many people have steered clear of trying to answer this question for fear that future developments will contradict their predictions, damaging the credibility and trust that they may have accumulated with their readers.
This is all happening against the background of U.S. President Donald Trump’s escalation against Iran and the understanding over its nuclear activities. Trump has also brought us the ‘glad tidings’ of the end of an agreement that he has repeatedly described as the worst ever.
While many people believe that it is not unlikely for Trump to take this step and place international and regional relations before what he has referred to as ‘the coming storm’, others believe that it is unlikely that Iran has the ability or intention to respond in a strong and escalatory manner if Trump were to scrap the agreement or imposes sanctions on the IRGC. They view Iranian threats as part of the psychological warfare and mutual ‘arm-twisting’ that are underway.
What is certain, however, is that Trump will not dare scrap the agreement, first, because his powers do not allow him to do so. All he can do, if he wishes to withdraw, is to ask Congress not to ratify the law endorsing the agreement. But that is subject to balances that Trump and his divided team are not in control of.
Although Trump does not have the authority to scrap the agreement, he can claim that he wants to withdraw and shift the blame on to Congress, but Trump will not do so. Instead, he will seek a maneuver that will allow him to appear as being displeased with the agreement without actually calling for withdrawing from it. At the same time, he will abide with what the law requiring Congress’s endorsement of the agreement calls for – namely, an annual report from the administration concerning the extent to which Iran is abiding the agreement. In this case, Trump will say that Iran is keeping to the letter of the agreement, but is not implementing its spirit.
In other words, Trump will not withdraw from the agreement, but will withdraw his faith in the agreement’s ability to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. He will also urge Congress to discuss the means of improving the agreement and securing more guarantees. And this would mean sixty days of debates, after which Congress would come out with its recommendations to the Trump administration. And these will include urging the administration to try to convince its five partners to the agreement – Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany – as well as the UN and the IAEA and the EU, to come up with stronger understandings that are better able to bind Iran to the new requirements.
Parallel to this, Congress will recommend a new and separate sanctions regime that does not violate the nuclear agreement, but that will target what Washington refers to as the ‘Iranian missile program’ and what Trump and his team describe as ‘Iran’s interventions in the region’ and their charge that Tehran is undermining the stability of regimes allied with Washington. And Hezbollah will receive the main share of these sanctions.
Will Trump dare impose sanctions on the IRGC as an entire institution, when he has previously confined them to the Qods Brigades that are part of the IRGC?
Trump will not dare do so. He will focus instead on the IRGC’s missile capability, similar to what he has done in the Qods Brigades’ case. He will avoid challenging Iran to implement the threats that have issued from its most senior government and military authorities, going as high as the supreme leader [Ayatollah Khamene’i].
So, in this instance as well, we will have something similar to what Trump will do regarding the nuclear agreement, where he will avoid losing Europe and the IAEA, and find some appropriate means of circumvention that do not light the fuse of a great confrontation while preserving cards that he can use and play with to raise the tension and pressure.
But this will ensure that the confrontations will be small-scale and remain within the confines of the major negotiations underway, because relations with Iran is a matter that calls for decisions at the level of the U.S. state as such, and is not within the margins of action allowed to the president alone.
And the U.S. state, which has avoided a major confrontation to prevent Hezbollah from being present in Syria, and especially in Syria’s Southern and Eastern borders – even as it saw its red lines trampled underfoot – realizes that the chances for a confrontation with Hezbollah are greater than a confrontation over the Iranian nuclear file. And the fact that the U.S. avoided the lesser confrontation because of its weakness confirms that it will not proceed to the greater confrontation under the illusion of being powerful. For he who cannot achieve the lesser aim cannot achieve the greater one.
For those under the illusion of what U.S. power can achieve, we say: Let us wait and see. And he who lives long enough will be vindicated. And tomorrow is just around the corner!
Trump’s position is very similar to that of the presidents of Kurdistan Province and Catalonia. They called for referendums for secession, but then replaced their respective declarations of independence with calls for dialogue. In both cases, miscalculations have led those making them into a major predicament. The difference is that Trump is living his presidency as if he were a TV commentator and not a decision-maker.
(translated by Mideast Mirror Ltd)