What is the future of the nuclear deal?There is no exaggeration to tell that Trump’s final decision to leave the nuclear deal with Iran has significantly changed the political situation not only in the Middle East but in the whole world. Numerous experts have already presented detailed analyses of possible negative consequences to all involved parties including the U.S. However, what was done is done and new questions arise. Among the most important of them are the following ones – will other parties, particularly Iran, start new negotiations with the USA? What would be the key-terms of this potential new agreement? Would be Trump’s decision a beginning of a serious conflict between the USA and the EU or the Euro-Atlantic cooperation will appear much more important?

Donald Tramp has been criticizing the nuclear deal since his electoral campaign defining it as “the worst deal ever.” However, concerning the reasons for such critics Trump has not been very clear. According to him, in spite of the deal Iran continues developing nuclear weapons and has increased his financial possibilities to sponsor terrorism all over the world. 

In his numerous statements U.S. President demonstrated that in his view, there have been very close relations between Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes. Definitely, this position reflects the concern of the U.S. allies, particularly, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Contrary to North Korea’s missile programme, Iran’s doesn’t aim at striking the USA (due to the long distance), but their allies in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has already suffered from the missile attacks conducted by the Yemeni Houthis. 

Iran’s increasing influence in the Middle East (in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, rapprochement with Turkey and Qatar) raises significant concerns both in Israel and Saudi Arabia. However, any attempts to stall this expansion considerably, have failed. It is more than obvious that by speaking about “sponsoring worldwide terrorism by Iran,” Trump points to Tehran’s allies and strengthening of the Shia axis in the Middle East.

It seems that the success in dealing with the North Korea’s nuclear and missile programme inspired Trump to implement the same hard tactics towards Iran. However, Iran is not North Korea. Its economy is much stronger, the official Tehran enjoys much better relations with China, Russia and the EU. While one can assume that the Iranian nuclear programme could appear at the stuck in negotiations with the West, the missile programme and relations with the Shiite world belong to the very vital strategic interests of Iran. 

One of the major points is the attempts of the United States to join and influence the reconciliation process in Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow on 9 May 2018 proves the existence of such attempts. Israel needs guarantees that Syria will not become an Iran’s proxy on the borders with the Jewish state, but will Russia and Turkey accommodate these demands?

President Trump seems to overestimate the scope of the recent riots in Iran in December 2017. The Iranian government demonstrated its capacities to effectively deal with riots, while their extent was definitely exaggerated by the West. Paradoxically, however, numerous American experts on Iran have emphasized that the country does not have serious internal vulnerabilities which can become the reason for the regime fall. Only evolution and gradual rapprochement to the internal community can influence sustainable and essential changes in the Iranian politics. Therefore, Trump’s “stop develop nuclear weapon and sponsor terrorism” means for Iranians as “stop your missile programme and stop support your allies.”

It is very dubious that such preconditions would be acceptable for Iran as a ground for future negotiations. The national missile programme, as well as support to Shiites constitutes a vitally important part of its national security strategy. Missiles should prevent U.S. allies to participate in any military campaign against Iran, as well as effectively curb petroleum supplies from the Gulf region, while support for Shiites is a part of the very concept of the Islamic republic.

Besides, the problem of possible pre-terms of a new agreement, the U.S.-EU relationship has appeared under a serious strain after the Trump’s decision. The question is not the policy towards Iran, but the maturity of the EU and its foreign policy as a political reality. Actually, Trump has emphasized that the EU is not a full-fledged political actor, at least on the international arena. Paradoxically, but this step raises up the importance of Russia and China who are more and more perceived as a possible counter-balance to the American influence in the Middle East. Now the European leaders are on the crossroads. It seems that the forthcoming 17 May European Council meeting in Sofia will clarify EU’s further strategy towards the new situation. If the EU proposes effective and reliable instruments to avoid U.S. sanctions and minimize the negative results from the American withdrawal (protection for the European companies, securing banking transactions, securing petroleum contacts with Iran etc.), Trump’s strategy bears high risks to fail. Otherwise, the uncertainty in the Middle East political development will only rise up. 


About author:

Aliaksandr Filipau is the Director of the Institute of Extended Training and Further Education at the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts. He has PhD in Political Science from the Academy of Public Administration in Minsk. In 2009-2013, he worked as Senior Analyst at the Information-Analytical Center under the Administration of the President of Belarus. The areas of his research interests are public administration, international relations, Arabic and Middle Eastern studies, Belarusian public policy.