Iran, the Nuclear Agenda and the United States

Giovanni Sale, SJ

 Giovanni Sale, SJ / Church Life / 12 February 2019

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The current crisis between Iran and the United States is the worst since the Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini[1] and the diplomatic crisis of 1979-81 when young Islamic revolutionaries stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran taking fifty two diplomats and other citizens,  hostage for 444 days.

The present situation was triggered by President Donald Trump’s May 8, 2018, withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, which is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed in 2015 by Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the United Kingdom, France, United States, Russia and China), plus Germany. Trump stated that his administration would immediately impose economic and trade sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran, as indeed occurred in August and then again in November, “to prevent the regime that supports terrorism throughout the Middle East from developing a nuclear weapon.”[2]

These sanctions – the most recent ones in particular – are bringing Iran’s economy to its knees. According to some analysts, they will provoke a change in course by the government in Tehran not only in regard to the country’s nuclear program, thus nullifying the results of an agreement reached after much diplomatic effort, but also in its missile program, and in its strategy of exercising influence in the Middle East in general.[3]

The agreement was a diplomatic success for various countries, and succeeded in sending a positive signal regarding the possibility of a joint commitment for security in the Middle East.

“Cut off the head of the snake”

The current U.S. Administration considers the Islamic Republic a state with expansionist ambitions intrinsically  dangerous for stability in the Middle East. This orientation is strengthened by the continuous pressure exerted on Trump by the Saudis, the Iranians’ historical enemies, and by the Israelis. The latter believe that the nuclear agreement desired by Obama is an international fig leaf that allows a regime they consider to be “terrorist” to continue to develop its nuclear program secretly, in order to soon obtain a nuclear weapon.

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