Home News Middle East Trump Shows Willingness to Pressure Iran, and Perhaps also Fellow Western Nations

Trump Shows Willingness to Pressure Iran, and Perhaps also Fellow Western Nations

Although the order initially impacted valid green card holders, some of its provisions were temporarily suspended by a federal judge, leaving the long-term scope of the order in doubt. But the Business Journal report suggests that regardless of the final form that the travel restrictions take, it could make it more difficult for companies like Boeing to follow through on plans to sell to Iran. In the wake of the Iran nuclear agreement that was finalized in July 2015, Boeing successfully pursued an agreement to sell 80 jetliners, valued at over 16 billion dollars, to Iran’s commercial aviation industry.

Some critics of the nuclear deal have also been hostile toward the Boeing sale, especially out of fear that American aircraft and their components could end up being misused by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has been known to smuggle arms and fighters to foreign conflict zones and terrorist groups using commercial aircraft. For such critics, the danger posed by the IRGC was underscored very soon after Trump signed his executive order, when the hardline paramilitary group conducted a test-launch of a ballistic missile about 150 miles east of Tehran.

As reported by Reuters on Wednesday, Trump’s National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn issued a statement in response to that test-launch, signifying the administration’s ongoing commitment to a more confrontational approach to Iran policy than had been seen throughout the Obama administration. Much of the former administration’s apparent laxity was blamed on President Obama’s anxiousness to preserve the nuclear agreement, which was generally described as his signature foreign policy achievement. The Trump administration’s decision to put Iran “on notice” over a variety of provocative moves suggests that it is far less concerned with defending the existing status quo.

Of course, Trump used his presidential campaign to repeatedly decry the nuclear deal as one of the worst agreements ever negotiated. But in the wake of his election it was never entirely clear how closely his actions would line up with his campaign rhetoric. Now that the sitting administration has struck a harsh tone with Iran directly, there is new justification for assuming that Trump and his advisors are unconcerned with the potential impact of their policies on the Boeing deal and other recent developments related to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

In fact, it is entirely possible that the administration would support the cancellation of such deal, provided that the impact on American companies and workers does not seem to violate the administration’s “America first” slogan. By contrast, the current Iranian leadership likely recognizes that it cannot afford to simply let go of the JCPOA and the resulting relief from economic sanctions. This is reflected in the fact that, although Iranian President Hassan Rouhani retaliated against Trump’s executive order with his own ban on American travelers, the Iranian Oil Ministry specifically announced that US oil companies would still be welcome in the country.

The Associated Press reported upon that announcement on Tuesday, but its details by no means suggest that Iran is interested in comprehensively changing its tone in order to encourage an equivalent softening from the Trump administration. Quite the contrary, Iran’s retaliations against the executive order apparently did not end with Rouhani’s travel ban but also included the announcement of efforts by the Iranian Central Bank to stop using the dollar in its international exchanges.

Jokpeme reported on Tuesday that this transition had been discussed among Iran’s government and economic leaders for some time, but was apparently accelerated in response to the executive order. Several countries have already entered into agreements with the Islamic Republic describing the use of alternative mutual currencies to facilitate their transactions. But Jokpeme reports that in order to implement any of these plans, the total value of those transactions will have to increase substantially. This suggests that the Trump administration is still in a position to halt Iran’s efforts by discouraging expanded international investment in or exchanges with the Islamic Republic.

However, it has been repeatedly emphasized, both before and after Trump’s election that this might be a difficult proposition, considering that the JCPOA has already resulted in a wide variety of Western companies discussing or actively pursuing opportunities in Iran. After November, Trump distanced himself from previous promises to alter the terms of the nuclear deal, perhaps because doing so would actually require coordinated effort from each of the seven parties involved in the agreement. These other parties all seem to expect to benefit from the JCPOA over the long term, even those who struck a more hardline tone with Iran during the original negotiating process.

While the nuclear talks were ongoing, France developed a reputation for making the most extensive demands of the Islamic Republic, but after the talks concluded the same country became a leading source of Western delegates traveling to Iran to explore economic cooperation. Early this week, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault visited Tehran, as reported by the New York Times. There he explicitly defended the JCPOA and declared that it had already begun to “bear fruit.” Such statements strongly imply that the Trump administration will face serious push back if it does take up efforts to discourage Western investment in the Islamic Republic.

But the administration has so far demonstrated a clear willingness to butt heads with traditional US allies, as well as traditional adversaries. So while it now seems clear that the Trump administration has truly committed to an assertive posture toward Iran, it now remains to be seen what posture it will take with Western countries that seem to give support to Iran.


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