Iran says the US is violating the nuclear deal

Iran says the US is violating the nuclear deal

Iran is accusing the US of violating the landmark nuclear deal between the two countries. Surprisingly, Tehran may be right — and it could have serious consequences for the future of the accord. The dispute dates back to May’s NATO summit in Brussels, when President Donald Trump asked some of Washington’s closest European allies to hold off from signing new business deals with Iran. That’s a problem.

As Vox writes in an article "Iran says the US is violating the nuclear deal. It has a point", the nuclear deal itself bars the US and the European Union from implementing “any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran” so long as Tehran sticks to the deal. Earlier this week, the administration reluctantly certified that Iran was doing so.  Still, Trump’s push to halt Iran’s burgeoning business relationships with Europe sparked fury in Tehran, where senior Iranian officials bluntly accused the US of breaking the pact. In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said “the United States has failed to implement its part of the bargain,” citing the fact that Trump “used his presence in Hamburg during the G20 meeting in order to dissuade leaders from other countries to engage in business with Iran.”

Zarif’s claim isn’t based on hearsay — it came straight from the White House itself. While listing Trump’s accomplishments during the G20 summit, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump encouraged dozens of powerful foreign leaders “to stop doing business with nations that sponsor terrorism, especially Iran.” That’s exactly the opposite of what former Secretary of State John Kerry did under the Obama administration. In a bid to boost the effectiveness of the new deal, he actively encouraged European investors to do business with Iran and help kick-start its economy again. But now the White House is bragging about trying to actively suppress Iran’s economic relationships with foreign countries — and Tehran has good reason to be angry with the US about it.

Trump hates the nuclear deal. The irony is that he’s the one potentially breaking it.

Richard Nephew, who coordinated sanctions policy at the State Department under Obama, said that Iran has a case. “If he truly did wander around the G20 and said, ‘Don’t do business with Iran,’ I think that’s a pretty reasonable argument for the Iranians to make,” Nephew, now a senior research scholar at Columbia University, said.

“It’s easily a violation of the spirit of the deal,” he added. “Based on a plain-text reading of the [nuclear deal], I would characterize that to be a breach of our obligation.”

It’s not clear if Iran will make a formal complaint about Trump’s actions to the multinational commission that monitors compliance with the deal. That commission is composed of the countries that negotiated the pact with Tehran: the US, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

An Iranian complaint wouldn’t in and of itself have any immediate, concrete impact. In the long term, though, Trump’s actions could make it easier for Tehran to walk away from the deal and argue that it had no choice because Washington was flagrantly violating the pact. “This is all about laying a predicate for an eventual decision to walk out,” Nephew says.

And that’s the irony here. Trump constantly accuses Iran of violating a deal that he spent months attacking on the campaign trail. But his behavior here could end up imperiling it more than anything Iran has done so far.