United States President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement has been met with a flurry of diplomatic responses, including concerns expressed by the African Union.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the AU Commission, released a statement Wednesday in support of the July 2015 agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) on Iran’s nuclear program. He noted that the unilateral U.S. decision flies in the face of International Atomic Energy Agency findings that Iran remains in compliance with its provisions, which were unanimously endorsed and made legally binding by the United Nations Security Council.
“The decision taken by the United States Government has the potential to heighten tensions in the region, as well as further erode confidence in the credibility of international commitments,” Mahamat said. “It deals a serious blow to multilateralism and to international regimes on nuclear verification.”
The AU will “spare no efforts” in supporting the agreement, pointedly noting the AU respect for international law in the statement. Mahamat called on other signatories to salvage the landmark agreement, which allows Iran a limited nuclear program while preventing the development of weapons.
The AU statement followed a long-anticipated announcement from Trump on Tuesday that the U.S. was ending its participation in the landmark agreement because it failed to protect U.S. national security interests and is “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” Mahamat also joined a chorus of international voices dismayed over Trump’s decision.
‘Trump cannot be trusted’
The White House accused Iran of violating the deal but with little evidence. Israeli authorities released documents on April 30 that aimed to show Iranian duplicity on nuclear research and development, but the stolen cache given to the U.S. by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to show any violation occurring since the JCPoA agreement went into effect in January 2016.
It’s not clear that Israeli intelligence influenced the Trump decision, since the president has said since taking office that he wants the U.S. out of the deal – but the White House cited the information in its announcement.
“The (Israeli) intelligence further demonstrates that the Iranian regime did not come clean about its nuclear weapons activity, and that it entered the JCPOA in bad faith,” Trump’s administration said. “The JCPOA failed to deal with the threat of Iran’s missile program and did not include a strong enough mechanism for inspections and verification. The JCPOA foolishly gave the Iranian regime a windfall of cash and access to the international financial system for trade and investment.”
It’s with that cash that Tehran is funding terrorism in the Middle East through Hamas and Hezbollah, the White House said. U.S. sanctions against Iran will now be reimposed, and those doing business with Iran will have a grace period to end their operations or interests before experiencing what Trump called severe consequences.
“United States withdrawal from the JCPoA will pressure the Iranian regime to alter its course of malign activities and ensure that Iranian bad acts are no longer rewarded,” the U.S. said. “As a result, both Iran and its regional proxies will be put on notice. As importantly, this step will help ensure global funds stop flowing towards illicit terrorist and nuclear activities.”
That move was quickly condemned by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, above, who delivered a televised address to the Iranian people in which he said it should come as no surprise that Trump cannot be trusted. “Today, we saw what we were reiterating from forty years ago, and that is Iran is a country that lives up to its commitments and the United States is a country that has never done so,” Rouhani said.
The international response
The Iranian president vowed to continue negotiations with China and Russia, as well as three European nations – France, Germany and the U.K. – who are parties to the agreement along with the European Union. For Rouhani, who spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron late Wednesday, it was a chance to again condemn the U.S. for putting the nuclear deal in jeopardy.
“Despite Trump’s daydreams, enrichment in Iran has never been aimed at achieving nuclear weapons, but rather a scientific and technical attempt to promote national pride and meeting the needs of the Iranian nation,” said Rouhani. “If we reach a clear decision on the JCPoA within a limited time, we can witness broader interaction between Iran and Europe.”
Macron, alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, issued a joint statement on their continued commitment to the nuclear deal and called on the U.S. “to avoid any action that would prevent its full implementation by other parties.” For their part, China – also a party to the JCPoA – said Wednesday that it regrets the decision made by the U.S. side.
“All relevant parties should implement the JCPoA in good faith and ensure its integrity and sanctity,” said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang, who confirmed that China will continue with the process. “This will contribute to upholding the international non-proliferation regime and promoting peace and stability in the Middle East.”
Though not a partner to the deal, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also issued a response consistent with Mahamat’s position, noting that the agreement “provides a framework of confidence under which the Islamic Republic of Iran can pursue the development of its nuclear capabilities for civilian purposes.” The U.S. should not interfere with the will of China, Russia and the other European partners committed to the deal.
“It is important that the progress made over many years of negotiation should not be lost,” Ramaphosa said.
Image: Presidency of Iran