Given that there are six signatories to the deal – not counting Iran – and seven years to go before the first sunset clause expires, Trump along with the U.S.ʹ European allies could have made every effort to enlist the full co-operation of Russia and China. Both powers would have supported a revised deal, as neither wanted the U.S. to withdraw from the deal, nor Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. This would have compelled Iran to take the collective demand seriously, fearing that otherwise joint crippling sanctions will be reinstated, something Tehran wants to prevent at all costs. Collectively, they could have exerted far greater influence on Iran to modify the deal and mitigate U.S.ʹ and regional alliesʹ concerns.

New talks would not have been limited to fixing the current deal, but to offering Iran a path for normalisation of relations with the West. Iran exists and will continue to exist indefinitely. The U.S. and the rest of the international community have every right to demand that Iran end its meddlesome activities in the region. Similarly, Iran has the right to govern itself as it sees fit, without fear and intimidation.

Re-visiting the Iran deal would have provided a golden opportunity to change the regional dynamic, as long as Iran were ready and willing to play a constructive role in stabilising the region. This should have been the larger goal behind the search for a comprehensive and permanent new deal.

To that end, Tehran could have been required to commence talks about its ballistic missile programme, either as a separate deal or in conjunction with the new talks to modify the current deal. Iran would have been under pressure to temper its bellicose rhetoric, its support of violent extremist groups and cyber hacking campaigns and to end the building of a network of partners and proxies – the "axis of resistance" – which raises regional tensions and could lead to military confrontation.

Moreover, Iran would have been compelled to ease the regional tension in the countries where it is directly or indirectly involved, by taking the initiative to bring an end to the horrifying wars in Yemen and Syria, keeping Hezbollah and other extremist groups at bay in the process. Iran could have also been induced to stop threatening Israelʹs existence, thereby reducing the tension and preventing direct confrontation between the two countries, which in fact both sides want to avoid.

Notwithstanding the dreadful mistake of de-certification, Trump can keep the deal on life support if he does not immediately re-impose the sanctions and gives the other five powers the time needed to work collectively with Iran and reach a new agreement – one that will chart a new course in the Middle East and potentially mitigate the multiple conflicts in which Iran plays a pivotal role.

Otherwise, we should all brace ourselves for intensified turmoil in the Middle East, thanks to the utter recklessness of Trump and Netanyahu, who failed miserably to realise how horrifying the consequences will be.

Alon Ben-Meir

© 2018

Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations at NYUʹs Center for Global Affairs. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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