US reportedly mulling options in anticipation of Iran deal pull-out

US reportedly mulling options in anticipation of Iran deal pull-out
President Trump's inner circle is already drafting a new policy in anticipation of the US pulling out of the Iran deal, according to reports. The move would likely alienate the US from its allies and inflame regional tensions.

Trump's national security team is mulling strategies for pulling out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known colloquially as the 'Iran nuclear deal,' and reimposing sanctions on Tehran, according to the Associated Press. Trump has set May 12 as the deadline for the deal to be renegotiated and has warned that Washington may pull out of the agreement if its demands for a tougher stance on Iran aren't met.

According to AP, one option under consideration by Trump's aides is delaying the reapplication of sanctions by six months, giving European signatories of the agreement time to revise the deal to Trump's liking.

Three of the deal's signatories – France, Britain and Germany – last month proposed imposing EU-wide travel bans and asset freezes on around 15 Iranians, companies and groups linked to Iran's ballistic missile program and role in Syria's war, in an effort to salvage the deal, while satisfying Washington's hardline approach to Tehran. However, the proposal failed, after encountering resistance from Italy, Spain and Austria.

"Italy said dialogue was the preferred option and that sanctions could weaken our position while not convincing the United States," according to a European diplomat who spoke to Reuters about proposed sanctions. "Spain asked the three to consider the implications of such a move," the diplomat added.

READ MORE: EU powers propose new Iran sanctions to keep Trump in nuclear deal

Trump has previously described the agreement as the "worst deal ever negotiated," but proponents of the 2015 accord say pulling out now would harm Washington's credibility on the international stage, alienating the US from its European partners. Withdrawing from the agreement could also accelerate a conflict between Iran and its regional rivals.

"The entire world except Israel and Saudi Arabia supports the JCPOA, so by withdrawing from it the US would become a pariah," Vladimir Sazhin, a senior research associate at the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told RT earlier. "There was a possibility of conflict between Iran and Israel in 2011. Iran was developing its nuclear program under virtually no scrutiny by the IAEA… Obama was trying at the time to prevent Israel from attacking Iran. The sanctions were an alternative to war," he added.

If Trump ultimately decides to pull out of the agreement, "The US' credibility would suffer greatly and it would have adverse effects on the US diplomatic efforts aimed at North Korea," Kaveh Afrasiabi, a political scientist and an adviser to Iran's team during the negotiations on the nuclear deal, told RT earlier.

"The trust in the US would be universally damaged. Harm its own prestige, global image and international standing."

Speaking to the World Affairs Council at Villanova University last week, former secretary of state John Kerry said that pulling out of the deal would lead to decades of diplomatic dead-ends and would inflame tensions in the region.

"If we pull back from what they have done, it will be 30 years before another president will ever sit down with Iranians to negotiate," said Kerry, who helped negotiate the deal. "Then we will be on track, if something goes wrong, of confrontation." Kerry described the 2015 deal as the "strictest, most transparent, most accountable arms control agreement on the planet today."

Adopted by Iran and the so-called P5+1 – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany – the JCPOA stipulates that Tehran must reduce the number of its uranium enrichment centrifuges by two-thirds, cap the enrichment grade below the level needed for weapons-grade material, and reduce its enriched uranium stockpile by 98 percent for 15 years. In exchange, the decade-old sanctions imposed on Tehran, relating to allegations of a secret nuclear weapon program, were lifted.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is tasked with monitoring Iran's compliance, says Tehran has so far been in full compliance with its side of the agreement.

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