US President Donald Trump announced on 8 May the withdrawal of the United States from the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the restoration of sanctions against Tehran.
By Marcos Margarido.
“This was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made … I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal,” he said in a statement at the White House, and that he would “sign a presidential memorandum to begin reinstating U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime.”
He also said that “the Iranian regime is the leading state sponsor of terror” and criticised its influence in the Middle East.
The terms of the deal
The document, negotiated by the Obama administration and signed in 2015, sets a ceiling for Iran’s enriched uranium stock – a material used to produce fuel for nuclear reactors and weapons – and reduces the number of centrifuges to enrich the material by two thirds for ten years. Tehran has also pledged to modify a heavy water reactor so that it is not capable of producing plutonium – also used in atomic bombs.
In exchange, the United States was committed to easing economic sanctions imposed on Iran, such as blocking state and Iranian assets abroad, ending the oil business and others like shipping, transportation, and finance.
The reasons stated by Trump
During the presidential election campaign, Trump had already announced his opposition to the deal. In early January, he said he would leave it until 12 May if the Congress and the European powers did not correct its “disastrous flaws.”
He claims that the agreement restricts Iran’s nuclear activities for only a limited period (up to 2025), that the document, signed by the main imperialist powers – USA, France, Britain and Germany – as well as China and Russia, was not able to stop the Iranian development of ballistic missiles and, finally, that the US$ 100 billion, that were blocked in western banks and then released by the deal, were used to “fund arms, terror and oppression” in the Middle East.
European governments and the deal
A succession of leaders of European governments, such as the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have been to Washington in recent weeks to try to persuade the US president to keep the agreement. According to them, the flaws alleged by Trump could be corrected using clauses in the accord itself. And that, without changing it, new sanctions could be imposed against the development of ballistic missiles and Iran’s support for Hezbollah and its armed presence in Syria in defense of the dictator Bashar al-Assad.
After the US announcement of definitive withdrawal, the European countries signatories of the deal announced that they intend to keep the pact. In addition to trying to maintain the Iranian nuclear ban, they are keeping an eye on their oil supply. The announcement of the exit has already caused a rise in the barrel’s price, which can be fatal to the maintenance of the weak European economic recovery.
Iranian regime in crisis
The Iranian government reacted to Trump’s threats before the final announcement with a mixture of demonstration of power and submission. “If America leaves the nuclear deal, this will entail historic regret for it,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. But he added: “If we can get what we want from a deal without America, then Iran will continue to remain committed to the deal.”
That means that the central goal of Iran’s government is not to regain political independence lost with the signing of the deal. With it, Iran has renounced the right to have its own nuclear development, even if peaceful. And even if it were to produce atomic weapons, it should have the same right as the Western powers, China, Russia and Israel. What the government intends to do, instead, is to submit, not to America, but to the European powers, in exchange for the crumbs provided by oil exports. And the support of Russia and China to keep it in power at a time of violent clashes with the Iranian masses.
The loosening of sanctions did not give Iran the relief the government hoped for. Its economy, totally centralized in the hands of the Ayatollahs, the army and the Revolutionary Guards, that is totally corrupt, has had serious problems. Since the re-election of Rouhani in May 2017, the Iranian currency has lost 35 percent of its value. It used to take 43,000 Rials to buy a dollar late last year, but it went up to 65,000 Rials before Trump’s announcement. Iran’s currency should drop even more now.
Politically, things are not going well either. The president’s popularity plummeted as he failed to deliver on his electoral promises of social and economic improvements. His opponents within the regime, in the army and in the clergy, increased attacks against him.
However, the main element of instability comes from the streets. In December 2017, people’s demonstrations that began in Mashad, the country’s second city, spread to other regions. Contrary to the 2009 demonstrations against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s electoral fraud, organized by the so-called Green Movement, which is made up of Tehran’s middle classes, the last protests were led by impoverished popular sectors and workers squeezed by low wages.
Demonstrators aimed at reducing the rising cost of living, but also at toppling the increasingly corrupt government of the ayatollahs, shouting “Down with Rouhani” and “Down with the Dictator”, facing water cannons and tear gas bombs. Days before, the president had submitted an austerity budget which cut benefits to the poor and raised fuel prices by 50%, among other measures.
The situation has only worsened since then, as we have seen with the huge devaluation of the currency, resulting in increased inflation and prices. The government is sitting on a time bomb that it tries to disarm by keeping the nuclear deal.
Israel takes advantage of the situation
The Israeli government, through Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has always been against the deal. Days before its signature in 2015, he went to the United States to try to persuade US representatives to reject it. However, it passed, but under the condition that the White House presented reports every 180 days that examined Iran’s commitment.
Since Trump supported the nomination of Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital, defying the Catholic and Muslim religions, which consider it a holy city of the three religions, Netanyahu returned to the offensive against the deal. He gathered documents stolen from the Iranian government to prove that Tehran had lied when it informed the International Atomic Energy Agency about the country’s nuclear situation in 2015. A government such as Netanyahu, based on ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and continuing massacres in the Gaza Strip, has no morals to condemn any other liar.
Trump’s True Objective
Trump was elected for his promises to increase jobs to American workers, wrapped in a drastic reduction of their living conditions caused by laws approved by the Republican own Trump’s party, but also by Obama’s Democrats. To this end, he accused politicians of both parties of being an elite away from the people and promised to bring factories that had moved abroad in search of more profits back to their country.
Its foreign policy is to a large extent fitted to this purpose when, for example, it imposes taxes on imported products. But Trump is the boss, wanted or not by its own bourgeoisie, of the most powerful imperialist nation on the planet and has a larger goal regarding foreign policy: To return to America an undisputed role of world’s police, which had been partially lost due to the defeat in Iraq, forcing Obama to withdraw US troops from there.
During his two administrations, Obama tried to maintain this role through a foreign policy based on negotiations, a greater distance from Israel and an approach to European imperialism, without abandoning surgical aerial bombardments. When necessary, he delegated to other countries the deployment of troops, as Lula did shamefully in the occupation of Haiti. His biggest achievement was the deal with Iran, after two years of intense negotiations. It condenses Obama’s three diplomacy characteristics.
Now, Trump tries to return absolute hegemony to the United States using the armed threat, as against North Korea, and attacks, albeit timid and with previous warning, as against Bashar al-Assad. However, the aim is not to go to war, but to obtain agreements under the best possible conditions to completely subject the other nations to an even greater colonization. Regardless of the methods used by the “two faces of imperialism,” Obama and Trump, the goal is one: to secure world power and ever-greater profits for its multinationals.
In the case of Iran, Trump told his desperate European counterparts that by breaking the current agreement, Iran will return to the table of negotiations in worse conditions. It is a gamble that has not yet won, it will take some time to know. The position of the European signatory countries to keep the deal can hamper Trump’s goals because they also do not want US imperialism to “reign” the world alone again. They prefer Obama’s style, which gave them room for negotiation. But if the Ayatollahs’ submission matches that of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, we can wait for a Trump victory.
The Middle East is at the center of the dispute
The beginning of Trump’s involvement in the Middle East – his stance on Jerusalem, the bombing of al-Assad’s bases in Syria, the critique of Iran’s involvement – seems to show that any future negotiation will have the Middle East at its center.
It is necessary to stabilize the region. Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine have undergone social instability for years, with no prospect of a solution. Iraq fell into Iran’s sphere of influence after Bush’s defeated US invasion and can no longer be considered a single state, with the occupation of part of its territory by the Islamic State (though already greatly weakened) and the Kurdish territory practically liberated.
The civil war in Syria, after seven years, has no solution in sight. Although the revolutionary rebels have lost many territories after massacres carried out jointly by Assad, Hezbollah and Russia, with the complicit omission of imperialism, the revolutionary process continues, sometimes with surprising vigor. Syria with Assad is unfeasible as a solution, so is Syria without Assad, but under the influence of Russia and Iran. Still less a victory of the revolution. It is, therefore, necessary to intervene to ensure control of the region and the hegemony of Israel, even if it requires continued attacks on the Palestinians to prevent another intifada.
Finally, Yemen is undergoing a troubled turmoil that may affect the main US ally in the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia. Not coincidentally, Trump accuses Iran of funding the revolt in Yemen.
In this small region, an important match of world class struggle is being played. The result is not certain amid increasing polarisation. The return to the spotlight of the powerful Iranian working class, muzzled by the regime-controlled “trade unions,” and of popular sectors that took to the streets in 2017, will be instrumental in ending the ayatollahs’ dictatorship and the goals of US imperialism in the region.