The US under Donald Trump not only has been isolated internationally, but has also seen the creation of an ‘internal resistance’ within Washington that seeks to have Trump’s decisions revoked when he is out of office, a situation Iran can count on.
In fact, the combination of international isolation and internal resistance in Washington, which has led to a weak US government under Trump, has also created a situation with achievable potential for Iran diplomacy apparatus.
The international isolation of Trump administration was once again on display during the recent United Nations General Assembly and Security Council meeting where the US that had the Council rotating presidency, calls a session on Iran and then cancels it and then again puts Iran on agenda under another title only to further witness its international isolation, he said.
This is while the US once could rally international support for its resolutions against Iran under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
Several rounds of sanctions had been imposed on Iran under Chapter VII before the nuclear deal was concluded – which deals with sanctions and authorization of military force – because of its nuclear program. Those international sanctions were lifted in 2015 by a multilateral nuclear deal reached in 2015, which the US, despite dismay from allies, abandoned in May.
Besides this international isolation, the Iranian public and political officials need to also pay attention to a resistance in the US, whether knowingly or out of pragmatism, which has taken shape against Trump’s foreign policy.
There are numerous signs indicating that such a resistance exist, an example of which is the many books and articles written, by both incumbent and former US officials, against Trump’s foreign policy.
A will to revoke Trump’s decisions
The most manifest sign of such resistance is, however, a will inside deep levels of US foreign policy apparatus to revoke the decisions made by the Trump administration.
In other words, if you carefully look at how the US left international agreements, including JCPOA, you see that in most cases this exit has been engineered so as it would be possible for Washington to return to them after the end of Trump’s administration.
JCPOA is the official name of the Iran nuclear deal; the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Paris Agreement on climate change and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are the other two examples that show how the ‘engineered exit’ leaves the door open for US return to the accords.
Although Trump repeatedly says that he has left Paris Agreement, the truth is that this exit has been done through a ‘statement’ that expresses the US ‘intention’ to leave the agreement.”
In case the US wants to legally operationalize its exit, it can only do so after 2020, that is after a new presidential election in the US.
In the case of NAFTA, Trump’s claim of ‘exit’ is different from the ‘legal’ truth”, i.e. the US president has actually ‘suspended’ – and not abandoned – the deal.
A careful examination of US leaving of JCPOA demonstrates that the decision-making behind the US foreign policy has made sure not to do anything that would see the collapse of the nuclear agreement.
The US foreign policy apparatus has exercised this caution not to resort to ‘trigger mechanism’ (or sanctions snapback mechanism) and revive the UN resolutions – something which would have demolished the agreement.
The US has been satisfied with ‘resigning’ from JCPOA, which means here again – maybe to the disagreement of Trump and his hardliners – the US foreign policy apparatus has kept the ‘way back’ to the deal possible.
There seems to be a pragmatist will inside US political system that does not want the ideological team around Trump to lead the nation towards ‘absolute unilateralism’.
The question remains how Iran can use this situation to advance its national interest.
What tactics or approach can the Iranian government adopt to get best out of the US government international isolation and the pressure and resistance against it from within the internal structure?”
*Reza Nasri is an international law expert from Geneva’s Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.