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Opinion: Can Trump’s talks offer lead to a 'better deal' with Iran?

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

Delhi, India Aug 06, 2018, 01.32 PM (IST) Written By: Major General S B Asthana

President Donald Trump's announcement expressing his willingness to hold talks with Iran, with ‘no preconditions’, for a new model of US-Iran nuclear deal indicates yet another flip flop in the US policies. The talks offer is unlikely to be taken seriously after witnessing US withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) with Iran (commonly known as Iran nuclear deal), even at the cost of differing with its allies and strategic partners.

Successful negotiations between US and Iran possible?

The intent of JCPoA, in which the United States and allies agreed to reduce sanctions on Iran, was that it will give up the means to make nuclear weapons. However, the Republicans were not too happy with the clauses in the JCPoA at that time and made it an election issue, President Trump delivered his election promise by walking out of the deal.

Trump, duly supported by Israel, has managed to raise the temperature by rhetoric, provocative speeches, renewed sanctions on Iran, and tried to curtail their oil exports, but it has not worked.

The US knows that it cannot up the ante beyond economic, diplomatic warfare domain, because further pressure is likely to push Iran towards nuclearisation even faster than what US expects.

While the US may be ready for talks, it will have to struggle very hard to find a workable replacement deal to the existing deal, which can be devoid of risk of failure, with no change of intention expressed in the JCPoA.

Additional complexities, but compromise is possible

The situation is much more complex in this case because none of the US allies, who were part of JCPoA, have walked out of it. This has also raised doubts over the reliability, credibility and stability of policies of the US to continue with a signed commitment. The emergence of a pro-Iran lobby to oppose anti-Iran lobby is another major change in international environment, which can speed up nuclear ambition of Iran, if pushed to wall. It is not easy to pressurise Iran which has great strategic significance due to its location as well as oil export, which concerns US allies, strategic partners and China. If Iran sustains sanctions and goes nuclear, it will encourage others like Saudi Arabia also to go nuclear creating further instability in the region. 

An ill-defined meeting with Iran is not likely to yield much, in such an environment. I sincerely feel that compromises are possible because of some of US allies are still honouring JCPoA, and the inclination of President Trump to hold talks with Iran. Having two concurrent deals (JCPoA with EU and new arrangement with US) will cause utter confusion.

Impact on India

As a strategic partner of India, the US is aware that India has historic, cultural, and oil centric relations with Iran. Iran has jumped one notch up by becoming the second largest crude oil supplier to India and ‘energy security is core interest’ for India. Chabahar port is another strategic compulsion of India.

US has understood the need of S-400 missiles for India and have agreed to give a waiver on CAATSA for its purchase from Russia. Therefore, waivers for India on Iran sanctions is a fair possibility.  

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Major General S B Asthana

Major General S B Asthana had been an Infantry General with 40 years of defence experience at national and international level.

Story highlights

On the issue of Iran and Russia, the US cannot afford to put EU, China, Russia and other strategic partners on sanctions, and expect to make ‘America Great’.