Donald Trump used the art of the deal buster with the Iran debacle
Around the campaign trail four years ago, Donald Trump declared that he would use his business skills to come up with a better deal to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons. He has led us down a path that scuttles the current deal and replaces it with nothing. It is in fact worse than that. The administration plans to throw the United Nations under the bus.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to the United Nations to submit a complaint to the Security Council about Iran not in compliance with the nuclear deal, even while it was Washington that withdrew from this two years ago. It triggers the snapback provision in the resolution which will reinstate sanctions on Iran from all members of the United Nations. The administration threw out the deal, but it now wants to use terms of this agreement to force the Security Council to reinstate sanctions.
Indeed, a country which makes an argument that it still has the legal right or the political leverage to invoke provisions of an agreement from which it has already withdrawn its participation sets the Security Council in this difficult dilemma. The United States maintains that as a party to the deal when it was created by the last administration, it has full rights to invoke the snapback provision inserted into the agreement with Iran.
The Security Council is running out of ways to tiptoe out of a crisis over its own power to preserve the Iran deal by avoiding a formal vote. If the other permanent members on the Security Council want to avoid this outcome, they may be pressured by the United States into some form of extending the arms embargo on Iran. There does remain a possibility of using some procedural ways to maneuver some delays until later this fall.
The administration advances its scorched earth trifecta to further its own extreme goals. First, the legal and political situation allows the mantra on the ineffectiveness of the Security Council to take center stage. Second, Washington punishes allies for upholding the accord after its withdrawal by forcing them to vote in favor of an arms embargo to preserve or reject the deal. Finally, the United States can punish Iran even further.
Some hardened realists might call this the ultimate brinkmanship. But this reckless move dramatically undermines the significant role of the Security Council with validating and verifying international agreements. The United States also further alienates Russia and China, countries that have actually been partners in the Security Council to control nuclear weapons. We also deteriorate the growing schism with our critical allies even more.
This buries the deal so a future administration has little room to create a better bilateral relationship with Iran. The snapback maneuver may have dire consequences if Iran responds by abandoning its current restraints on nuclear weapons. Other countries in the region could start down the path of nuclear weapons development. Israel might take military action against Iran, which could then turn into retaliation and conflict.
The move also undermines the credibility of international diplomacy by the United Nations. If the snapback effort succeeds, Britain, France, and other countries that disagree with the reckless abandonment of the deal by Washington would then be forced to go along or risk losing the ability to conduct business with American companies. The willingness of these governments to work with our leaders in the future would suffer.
So there you have it. This move by the administration will lead to a more dangerous Middle East, a ravaged Security Council, and more damaged relationships with critical allies that have been increasingly distrustful of bullying and incompetence by the United States. What a deal!
Alistair Millar is the president of the Fourth Freedom Forum and an adjunct professor at George Washington University. George Lopez is the Theodore Hesburgh professor of peace studies emeritus for the Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame and former member of the United Nations Panel of Experts for North Korea. David Cortright serves as the director with the Global Policy Initiative at the Keough School of Global Affairs and is also a policy studies adviser at the Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame.