On 12th May President Donald Trump is due to decide whether to pull his country out from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) treaty, signed in 2015 in Vienna, which aimed to limit and control the Iranian Nuclear Program. Latest statements made by Trump suggest that the potential withdrawal of US from the accord is more than possible, and thereupon might have a crucial impact on future developments in Middle East region. Many of political analysts and researchers try to understand – why the row over the JCPoA blows up right now and why US is so keen to withdraw or at least re-negotiate existing agreement? Below, I will try to explain and wrap up the major causes, which leads to “demonization” of Iranian pact.
- Future Korean Peninsula denuclearization deal
Many experts assume, that the latest US criticism over JCPoA is related to potential accord with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the denuclearization of Korean Peninsula. The agreement, which for decades seemed to be unachievable for every US administration, now is more likely to be completed than ever ago. Recent rapprochement of two Korean leaders - Kim Jong Un and South Korean President – Moon Jae-in, showed that the resolution of long-lasting “cold war” between the fraternal nations is possible. Nonetheless, many says that the latest historically important meeting was more about courtesy than the real discussion of possible resolution and non-binding decisions were even made. Analysts expect that the real “breakthrough” meeting, which can eventually address the denuclearization process could be the one between the North Korean Principal and Donald Trump, which is set to happen later this year. Nobody tries even underestimate the importance of potential Korean Peninsula denuclearization pact, which – once achieved – will definitely be perceived as a major success of incumbent US administration. Therefore – analysts say – Trump doesn’t want to any other aspects might have negative impact on this deal and one of the possible threat for the Korean deal is – according to Trump and his advisers– JCPoA agreement. The Act signed by Iran and Western powers including US, France, Germany, UK, European Union and two other world’s powers – China and Russia, although significantly reduced the Iranian stockpile of enriched uranium, limited the Iranian capacity to build the lethal weapon and dropped back its nuclear program, yet does not eliminate the whole Iranian’s infrastructure for the potential development of nuclear weapon. Trump does not want to leave this possibility for North Korean regime in the future denuclearization agreement, therefore his administration pushes toward tougher stance on the Iranian deal.
- Israel influence and propaganda
It is no mystery that the incumbent US administration has close relations with Israelis. The latest US diplomatic movements such as declaration of moving US Embassy to Jerusalem clearly shows that the Israeli influence on this administration remains very strong and both countries share the same approach toward future Middle East region prospect. Israel has long and widely known animosity with Iran, majorly because of the Palestinian conflict. Iran strongly supports the right for independence of Palestinian state by backing and funding Hamas – the biggest Palestinian political, fundamentalist organization, which is the robust enemy of Israeli state. Moreover, since the signing of the JCPoA, Israel doesn’t stop with its efforts to undermine the importance of the accord and criticize the framework of the deal, claiming it does not resolve all the threats arising from Iranian nuclear program. Currently, the negative rhetoric towards Iran and “demonization” of its leaders gains new area in the White House, which Israeli wants to materialize by pushing the current administration to pull back US from the agreement. Latest appointment of new secretary of state – Mike Pompeo, who supports the Israeli stance - only reinforce the hostile rhetoric in the cabinet. In his latest visit in Israel Pompeo and Israeli prime minister – Benjamin Netanyahu - jointly denounced Iranian aggressive policy in the region and threatened nuclear deal withdrawal. Thus, will gain a pretext for Israelis to further build the stronger alliance against Iranian interest in the region and simultaneously preserve its right to continue next movements aiming at more limitation of Palestinian autonomy.
- Sunni – Shia conflict and GCC crisis
Another crucial cause over the JCPoA crisis is lasting competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the regional supremacy. Both countries are currently locked in proxy war in Yemen, both support opposite sites in Syrian conflict and finally both have different interest in resolving the GCC crisis. Undoubtedly, Saudi Arabia with its newest crown prince has great ambitions to expand their area of influence on the whole Middle East region. Latest developments, including the Saudis engagement in Yemeni war, starting the diplomatic crisis with adjacent Qatar and rapprochement with Israel, indicates that Saudis don’t want to allow Iran to further expand their interest in the region. Newly appointed crown prince – Mohammed Bin Salman repeatedly denounced Iranian engagement into Yemen’s war and even alleged Iranians, that their supplied weapons are being used by Yemeni rebels to attack the Saudi territory. Moreover, almost 1 year lasting blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt is another key factor, which differentiates both parties. Saudis pointed out the cutting ties with Iran as a one of the crucial requirement to pull out the blockade from Qatar, which the latter strongly opposed to do. Growing tensions between the two regional powers caused the “détente” between old enemies – Saudis and Israelis, which common rhetoric over Iranian policy making has led to the new opening in their relations. Mohammed Bin Salman is sincere friend of Jared Kushner, the Trump’s son-in-law, who has also big friend’s circle in Israeli government and therefore had played the important role in closing ties between two countries. His persona is also used by Saudis to raise concerns in the White House over Iranian growing engagement in the region, which threatens their interest. Any movement against Iran, including withdrawal from JCPoA and re-imposition of sanctions on Iranian regime could prop up the Saudis position in the region and allow them to further expand their political interest across the Middle East.
The above-mentioned factors might have big impact on further Trump’s decision, whether to stay, withdraw or maybe renegotiate the JCPoA. The latest efforts to persuade Trump not to pull out from the agreement, made by France leader Emmanuel Macron seems to be not enough to achieve this goal – in the latest comments Macron said: “I don’t know what the American decision will be but the rational analysis of all President Trump’s statements does not lead me to believe that he will do everything to stay in the JCPOA”.
The one thing is certain. On May 12th in the White House the future prospect, on how the Middle East peace process will look like, will be decided. The decision announced by President Trump will pave the way to either attempt to normalization of the tight relations between opposing sites in the region or to further deepen the differences and turmoil in which Middle East is stricken since over a decade.