The US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on September 6 started outlining plans for President Donald Trump to declare that Iran is not complying with the multilateral nuclear deal, arguing that Tehran’s technical compliance with the 2015 agreement is not enough.
Trump has railed against the deal - a legacy achievement of his predecessor Barack Obama - which secures a drastic scaling down of Iran’s nuclear development program in exchange for the curbing of international economic sanctions, at every given moment.
In a 20-minute address to the American Enterprise Institute on September 5, Haley said the nuclear deal cannot be considered in isolation, referring to Iran’s other activities including is support for Syrian President Basher al-Assad and its ongoing ballistic missile development activities, seen, in particular, by Israel as a threat.
Her interpretation suggests that the deal is “ultimately flawed”. She added: "What I am saying is should he [Trump] decide to decertify, he has grounds to stand on. It's very easy to just talk about compliance and the JCPOA [the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the nuclear deal is officially called]. But there's so much more to the story that we need to be looking at."
Haley stressed that a “decertification” of the deal and refusal to give it another 90-day stamp of compliance by Trump would not automatically invalidate the JCPOA or constitute US withdrawal; the next step, she suggested, might be left to lawmakers in Congress. But any refusal by Trump to grant compliance might infuriate Tehran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned in mid-August that Iran could quit the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers “within hours” if the Trump administration keeps tightening its unilateral sanctions screw. He noted that If it abandoned the agreement, the Islamic Republic would return to its previous nuclear development programme, which would be at a more advanced stage than it was when it was withdrawn in return for the curbing of multilateral sanctions.
When journalists asked Haley after her address if the US would end up isolated through its latest moves towards the deal, with other nuclear deal signatories including EU member states, Russia and China still committed to the JCPOA, she said it was not Washington’s job to make sure allies were comfortable with Trump’s decisions.
"This is about US national security, this is not about European security," she said.
She also said that “you cannot put lipstick on a pig,” directly insulting the deal; some media agencies subsequently claimed it was a reference directed at the majority-Muslim state and its distaste for pork.
The determination of Trump to find Iranian non-compliance with the JCPOA, even despite being at odds with his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over his approach to the issue, was demonstrated by Haley referring to how Iran had twice exceeded the amount of heavy water (a form of water in nuclear reactors) it was allowed to have under the agreement. Under Obama, US officials dismissed those incidents as minor technical infractions that were quickly dealt with.
France’s Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud quickly denounced the US position on Twitter. "The Iran deal is about the nuclear issue, nothing else," he said. "So far, Iran is abiding by the commitments taken in this mutually agreed framework." Obama-era officials have repeatedly stressed that the only aim of the JCPOA is to prevent Tehran acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The Iranian government has not yet responded to the latest standpoint of the Trump administration; however, the Foreign Ministry in Tehran is expected to very soon comment on the latest verbal assault.
On August 29, French President Emmanuel Macron said that the nuclear deal was the best option for the global community and that there was no alternative to it.
In a meeting with his ministers, Macron noted that the JCPOA is proving good for the French economy. “There is no alternative to the regime on nuclear non-proliferation … in the context of what we are living through, the 2015 agreement is what allows us to establish a constructive and demanding dialogue,” he said.