‘Death By A Thousand Cuts’ Faced By The Iran Nuclear Deal

The Iran nuclear deal may face a lingering death even though, in a day-one spectacular, United States President Donald Trump decided against killing off the nuclear deal.

On the need for a tougher line against Iran, Trump’s administration speaks with one voice even though it sends out mixed signals on many issues.

And action has accompanied words. Directly clashing with Iranian allies is the U.S. military in Syria. A sword-dance with Iran’s bitterest foes was performed by Trump in Saudi Arabia. New sanctions on the Islamic Republic sailed through with near-unanimous approval in the Senate.

The Islamic Republic of Iran was offered a route back to the mainstream of the world economy and its nuclear program was reined in by the 2015 accord. Many years of work by many government was behind the accord. Its breakdown would impose new strains on America’s ties with Europe and would likely add to turbulence in the Middle East. Yet according to one former U.S. official who was intimately involved, there’s a serious risk that the deal could unravel.

“Death by a thousand cuts” is what former Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns fears could be the fate in store for the agreement he helped negotiate. He’s concerned by “the chipping away of trust in the agreement from all sides,’’ says Burns, who led the U.S. team involved in secret preliminary talks.

“It’s a fragile enough environment as it is,” he said in an interview. “It’s easy to back yourself into a collision of one kind or another.”

Tied to its ballistic missile program and alleged support of terrorism, the U.S. has slapped two additional sets of sanctions on Iran this year. For example, Iran has been allowed to resume oil sales to Europe by the lifting of wider international curbs in January 2016, as part of the nuclear deal. But including those on financial flows, many other American restrictions remain in place. For example, staying clear of Iran are major banks, wary of falling foul of U.S. policy. And watching to see what the administration does next are several Western companies.

Alireza Nader, a senior analyst at Rand Corp said that the prevailing view in Washington seems to be “to let the agreement remain in place, but to press on Iran so it doesn’t get the commercial advantages expected.”

One good example is the aerospace industry. Under the nuclear deal, allowed in principle is Boeing Co.’s proposed sale of 80 jets to Iran Air. A similar agreement has bene reached by Airbus. And amid criticism that new aircraft can be used to supply terrorist groups, the U.S. Treasury said last month it’s reviewing the licenses and but both companies remain at the mercy of the U.S. Treasury. “We will use everything within our power” to put additional sanctions on Iran, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the House Ways and Means Committee.

The Trump administration grudgingly certified in April that Iran is keeping its end of the deal when faced with a congressional requirement to report on the nuclear agreement. But the accord didn’t curb its role in sponsoring terrorism and only delayed Iran’s ambitions to gain nuclear weapons — “the same failed approach of the past”, said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

(Adapted from Bloomberg)

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