IISS analysts ask how Trump's decision to withdraw from the JCPOA will affect the Middle East, America's alliances and Washington's bid to contain North Korea.

Donald Trump announces withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal. Credit: White HouseExecutive Director of IISS-Americas Mark Fitzpatrick warned that Trump's decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal is a blow to peace and stability in the Middle East, and a decision that will sabotage faith in US leadership around the world.

Writing in Prospect Magazine, he said: 'US President Donald Trump’s violation of the Iran nuclear accord, by re-imposing nuclear sanctions, is the most disastrous decision of his troubled presidency to date. Taken for no good reason, his careless act undermines US leadership and credibility, alienates allies, invites retaliation [and] undermines the nuclear order in the Middle East.'

Fitzpatrick told Radio Free Europe: 'This is not the first time that President Trump has done something of this nature: pulling out of the Paris climate accords was a huge blow to American leadership and credibility. Pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership [multilateral trade pact] was another such blow.'

The risk to US-Europe relations was also noted by Fitzpatrick's colleague Mahsa Rouhi, Research Fellow for Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Policy. Her analysis for Al-Monitor predicted that Trump would blame France, Germany and the UK for failing to renegotiate and 'fix' the deal.

Impact on North Korea's nuclear programme

Fitzpatrick argued that Trump's approach spells danger for efforts to contain North Korea. He told Japan Times: 'Now that [Trump] has walked away from [the Iran deal], Kim Jong Un will be doubly certain not to give up any portion of his nuclear arsenal for mere American promises.'

Rouhi writes in Foreign Policy that hardliners in both Tehran and Washington are using recent events in North Korea to justify their positions - the former arguing they prove Iran can gain leverage through an accelerated nuclear programme, and the latter arguing they show how brinksmanship and raised tensions can bring success. But Rouhi says these positions ignore vastly different regional dynamics.

US options narrowed 

Kori Schake, IISS Deputy Director-General, told the Washington Post: 'I don’t see how this tightens the noose on Iran’s nuclear program or its other dangerous behavior.'

She added: 'It’ll make it harder for us to get the international cooperation we need. President Trump looks to have narrowed his options to either destroying Iran’s nuclear program or threatening our closest friends and allies with secondary sanctions that’ll start a trade war and accelerate the demise of the dollar as the international holding currency.' 

A failure years in the making?

Emile Hokayem, Senior Fellow for Middle East Security, argued that the move continues years of harmful US policy in the region. He Tweeted: 'Trump’s decision on Iran is unwarranted, dangerous, vain, stupid and more. But the US diplomacy that led to then followed the 2015 also contributed to making things worse in the Mideast as US sought to placate Tehran, sending its rivals into panic mode.

'Many of the people concerned with the fate of the Iran nuclear deal have ignored, wished away, understated the Syrian tragedy and Iran’s responsibility in it to reach then protect the deal. This has harmed the standing of the deal. Syrians will not forget.'

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The IISS Voices blog features timely comment and analysis on international affairs and security from IISS experts and guest writers.