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Iran Nuclear Deal: American Withdrawal Aids Regime Hardliners

Updated: Jun 20, 2018

At the start of this month, US President Donald Trump announced America’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal. Prior to his announcement, Trump’s European counterparts were left scrambling for a “plan B”, and initiated a campaign to convince Trump to remain in the agreement. Upon Trump’s, predictable, withdrawal, the US Treasury Department announced the imposition of further sanctions against Iran. Here, European companies have a 90 day notice period to withdraw their existing contracts in Iran before they face immediate sanctions by the US.

While the reinstatement of sanctions is provided as a US ploy to curb Iranian regional activities, it is likely that such actions will in fact empower regime hardliners. Certainly, Trump’s withdrawal from the deal has already bolstered critics of Iranian engagement with the international community who were already convinced that “the West” was not to be trusted. It is likely that further sanctions would lead to the IRGC placing Rouhani under immense pressure to take retaliatory actions against the US. Marcus Chenevix, MENA researcher at TS Lombard recognises that further sanctions would enable hardliners to hijack Iranian foreign policy, arguing that:

By isolating Iran from the global economy, the US is lowering the cost of bad behaviour by the Iranian government … a globally isolated economy has nothing to lose.

In addition to increasing the potential for hardliners to influence foreign policy, American withdrawal has also impacted the regime’s domestic efforts. With the outbreak of protests at the beginning of the year, tensions are already mounting in Iran. Here, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, spokesperson for Iran’s judiciary, has provided that the authorities will “resolutely confront” any unrest which may be utilised by “the West” to undermine the Islamic Republic. Such efforts to draw parallels between indigenous protest movements and “foreign enemies” are a common means of undermining public disenchantment with the regime. Moreover, in framing domestic demonstrations in this way, protestors may be at risk of more serious charges as their actions would be framed by issues of national security.

American withdrawal from the JCPOA thus provides a means to embolden regime hardliners while isolating Iran from the international community. Here, such developments may further increase Iran’s regional activities while negatively impacting the population.

Kate C. Hashemi

MENA Research Consultant – MECS

This article represents the views of the author alone and does not reflect the position of MECS.

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