US President Donald Trump has decided not to certify compliance with the Vienna accord signed by Tehran in 2015. Since Trump was elected, the US administration has already granted the signature that certifies compliance with the agreement on two occasions. This unilateral decision has come despite the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certifying compliance by the Iranian side under the terms of the agreement. The US Congress will now have 60 days to decide whether the United States will continue to be a party to the Vienna accord or impose new sanctions. During the election campaign, Trump had defined the agreement signed in Vienna as "the worst deal ever". In his speech, the head of the White House accused Tehran of "sponsoring international terrorism" and described it as a "fanatical regime". Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the USA intends to review the agreement negotiated by Barack Obama to include "trigger points". This means extending the mechanisms that trigger new sanctions, which are very likely to include the Iranian ballistic missile program, thus far been excluded from the Vienna agreement. The USA would also like to review the clause that provides for restrictions on Iran's uranium enrichment program to end after 2025.
How has this decision been arrived at?
The United States has already imposed new sanctions in recent months on the Iranian Pasdarans involved in Tehran's ballistic program. Last month, Tehran confirmed it had successfully tested a medium range (2000 km) missile. The objection to certifying compliance with the agreement by the Iranians was made clear in Trump's hard-hitting speech against Iran at the General Assembly of the United Nations in September this year.
A strategy document released by the White House in recent days refers to the need to neutralize "the destabilizing influence (of Iran, editor's note) and constrain its aggression in relation to its support for terrorism and militants". The document also refers to the strategy inaugurated by Trump on his visit to Saudi Arabia last spring. In other words, the USA intends to revive its traditional alliances in the region at all costs, which requires a harder stance to be taken toward the Islamic Republic. Iran is currently engaged in fighting radical Islamists on the ground, including the Islamic State (Isis), in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Last June, a terrorist attack, claimed by Isis, hit the Iranian capital.
Reactions by Iran and the other signatory countries
In a joint statement, the United Kingdom, France and Germany confirmed their respect for the Vienna agreement, considered to be "in our shared national interest". French President Emmanuel Macron, who said a few weeks ago that he was sympathetic to Trump's concerns, confirmed his respect for the agreement in a telephone call to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, also joined the chorus: "It is not up to any single country to terminate" an agreement that is working, was her response to Trump's statements. The Russian authorities also confirmed that the Vienna agreement will continue to be implemented despite Trump's words. For his part, the Director General of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, confirmed that compliance with the Vienna agreement is subject to "the strongest verification regime in the world". Trump's words were however welcomed in statements made by Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi authorities. Once again, Tehran has confirmed it intends to take a moderate stance, despite the statements made by Republicans in the United States. The speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, on a visit to Russia, confirmed that a potential withdrawal by the USA will not mean the end of the accord on the nuclear program. President Rouhani added that the United States are "more isolated than ever". "Can a president revoke an international treaty on his own?", wondered Rouhani.
A united front for continuation
Trump has decided to worsen relations between the United States and Iran by questioning the Vienna agreement, which the other signatories had already taken for granted. Canceling the accord would mean taking a step backward on the United Nations resolution. The other signatories to the agreement do not appear to view this possibility favorably. Republicans may therefore aim to impose greater restrictions on Iran, including automatic triggers for new sanctions running parallel to steps taken by the Iranian authorities. However, Russia and the European Union seem to have a clear interest in respecting the agreement for both national security and bilateral trade relations.