Stepping right over the U.S., world powers reaffirm commitment to Iran deal

Russia, China, and the E.U. remind Trump that he's not that relevant.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to the nuclear deal with Iran as "the worst deal ever." CREDIT: Alex Brandon/AP Photo.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to the nuclear deal with Iran as "the worst deal ever." CREDIT: Alex Brandon/AP Photo.

Since President Donald Trump declined to receritfy the Iranian nuclear deal, every other party to the agreement has come out in support.

In what is no doubt a humiliating moment for the president, European Union leaders are set to reaffirm their “full commitment to the Iran nuclear deal” on Thursday after meeting in Brussels, regardless of Trump’s threats to pull out of the deal, reports Reuters.

Russia has already reaffirmed its commitment to the deal. On Tuesday, according to state media, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters that, “[Trump administration officials have] violated not only the spirit but also the letter of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], as it appears to us, with a number of their actions.”

The 2015 agreement, signed by Iran and P5+1 countries (the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, France and Germany) sets strict limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief, and has been the target of tough rhetoric from Trump as both candidate and president. He declined to recertify the deal last week — a purely domestic mechanism that technically has no immediate impact on the JCPOA but gives Congress two months to decide on whether to place additional sanctions on Iran.

Still, even though Trump’s stance hasn’t killed the deal yet, his constant attacks are starting to have a galvanizing effect with Iran. While Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has indicated a willingness to stick with the deal as long as the European partners do, the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that Iran would “shred” the deal if the United States withdraws. Quoting Iranian state media, Reuters reported that Khamenei told an audience on Wednesday: “Trump’s stupidity should not distract us from America’s deceitfulness… If the U.S. tears up the deal, we will shred it… Everyone should know that once again America will receive a slap in its mouth and will be defeated by Iranians.” Khamenei also asked Europe to “stand against practical measures [taken] by America.”

Trump had already recertified the deal twice (under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the U.S. president is to review the deal once every 90 days) and even extended sanctions relief in September, in compliance with the terms of the JCPOA. So it’s unclear what has changed between July, when he last recertified the deal, and Friday, when he declined to do so again. What’s clear is that whatever path Trump is taking, he’ll be walking it alone.
In discussing the chaos overtaking the State Department under Trump, a former diplomat recently told ThinkProgress that one of the biggest dangers facing the United States was that “the world will move on” and that the United States is “going to be in the room but we’re not going to have the influence that we had.”

For now, Trump, along with U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, speak into a domestic echo chamber calling Iran out on “violations” to the deal, that, much like the emperor’s clothes, only they can see:

China — a crucial partner for the United States in its effort to curb North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs — has also pushed past Trump’s position on Iran, saying it will side with the European signatories to the deal to keep the deal in tact. Yes, even China — a country that generally cares little for optics, whether in crackdowns on its own human rights lawyers, chasing Muslim Uighurs out of the country, or striking deals with Mynamar over the bodies of brutalized Rohingya —  is worried that pulling out the deal with Iran wouldn’t look good and set “a bad precedent” for any deal the U.S. is hoping to strike with North Korea.
Even within the United States, voices that were once critical of the deal, such as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), have come around to realizing that it’s in the best interest of all parties to stay in the deal. Earlier this week, Schumer responded to Trump’s move to decertify the deal by saying: “I voted against [the 2015 deal] but now we ought to see, give it time to work.”