In the cauldron of the presidential campaign, Trump continually insisted that the Iran Nuclear Deal reached by the Obama administration was among “the worst ever negotiated”.

He also warned that he would tear it up if elected. With his inauguration only days away however, Iran’s political leader has jokingly cast aside Trump’s threats. Will the comments aggravate President-elect into action? Or will the realities of office temper his claims?

  • Iranian Leadership Holds Contempt for Trump Comments
  • Can Trump follow through on his threats?
  • Does Iran hold malicious intent?

 

The deal negotiated by Obama’s administration, Iran and number of other nations forced Iran to decellerate their development of nuclear weapons capacity. In return the US and their European partners withdrew many of the sanctions that had been severely hindered Iran’s economy.

The accord has largely been adhered to, despite continuing tensions in the Middle-east due to the conflicting interests of the two nations, including support for opposing sides of the Syrian civil war.

During a news conference celebrating the anniversary of the deal’s implementation, Rouhani’s tone was one of deprecation. Renegotiating “is like saying that we should turn a shirt back to cotton,” the President said.

“Mr. Trump says things like that he is not happy with the nuclear deal, or he calls it the worst agreement,” Mr. Rouhani said. “These are more like slogans. I consider it unlikely that anything will happen in practice.”

While Rouhani’s sentiment was disparaging towards Trump, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said: If the U.S. tears up the agreement, “we will light it on fire.”

Trump’s Options

Trump declared to a packed crowd at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March of 2016, during his Presidential campaign, that his “number-one priority” would be “to dismantle the disastrous deal”.

Reince Priebus, the President-elect’s chief of staff went further: “We all know that President-elect Trump doesn’t like the Iran deal, thinks it’s a terrible document, thinks it will create a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which it already is beginning to do.”

However, Rouhani’s belief that the deal could not be renegotiated seems to bear weight. The agreement was reached not bilaterally, but with 5 other nations: Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. There is little to suggest that these countries would be willing to re-enter talks.

Indeed the agreement took around eight years of diplomacy and around two years of negotiation to be completed. With little support for renegotiation from allies, and no motivating factors for Iran, Trump may find himself reneging on yet another campaign promise.

Obama’s Belief in the Nuclear Deal

The outgoing President has reiterated his confidence that the accord reached in 2016 will stand the test of time. On Monday, Mr Obama’s office issued a statement saying that by putting brakes on the Iranian nuclear programme and “verifiably” preventing it from developing a nuclear weapon, the deal had “achieved significant, concrete results in making the United States and the world a safer place”.

Trump does have support however, and the deal is on shaky ground in both Washington and Tehran. Rouhani himself had to defend the agreement during his press conference. His strongest argument lay in the $70 billion worth of oil the nation could sell this year.

“If not for the deal, where would we have deducted this money from? From nurses’, from teachers’ salary? Put health and treatment projects on hold?” Rouhani argued.

In an attempt to warn the incoming President, Obama also said: “The Iran deal must be measured against the alternatives. A diplomatic resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is far preferable to an unconstrained Iranian nuclear programme or another war in the Middle East.”

Given the response of Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran,  to Trump’s threats, Trump might be wise to take heed of the words of his soon-to-be predecessor: “Tearing up the deal would mean that our program would resume in a new manner that would shock Washington”.