Tehran ready to return to 'state of siege'

Orkhan Sattarov, the head of the European Office of Vestnik Kavkaza
Tehran ready to return to 'state of siege'

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, during his address to the members of the Iranian parliament, said that Iran is ready to abandon the nuclear within hours if the United States keeps on imposing new sanctions against his country. The Trump administration announced in mid-July new sanctions on 18 Iranian individuals, groups and networks linked to Iran's ballistic missile programme and other non-nuclear 'unacceptable' for the US activities. In February, 13 individuals and 12 entities from Iran, the United Arab Emirates, China, Kuwait and Lebanon were sanctioned.

At first sight Hassan Rouhani's threat seems rather strange. As he is considered to be one of the main architects of the agreement with a group of six international mediators, and his presidency is associated, first of all, with the abolition of international sanctions and the beginning of his country's withdrawal from international isolation. Is the Iranian president ready to give up his key foreign policy project, which brought him huge domestic and foreign policy dividends?

The positive economic effect of the nuclear deal for the state cannot be forgotten either - Iran, yearn for international investment during the tough sanctions regime, was flooded with financial injections and attractive contracts. On August 7, 2017, French automaker Renault signed a joint venture deal with Iran worth 660 million euros to build cars in Iran. In early July, a $4.8 billion contract to develop Phase 11 of the South Pars Gas Field was signed between Iran and Total. It would seem that the desired European capital has finally rushed into the Iranian industry and infrastructure, creating new jobs, so it is impractical. to withdraw from the nuclear agreement under such conditions.

However, Iran could not fail to react to the Trump administration's actions directed against it. After the US president's repeated attacks against the 'nuclear agreement' and high-level doubts about whether the US should continue to adhere to it in the future, Washington still decided to retain the deal. Not least because Trump's unceremonious rupture of a long-planned world-wide diplomatic deal would further undermine the already worsened image of the United States and become, as it withdraw from the Paris climate accord, another painful blow to relations with the EU countries. After all, the latter have serious economic interests in Iran.

But what will prevent the Republican administration in Washington from achieving the desired gradually, without doing 'sharp moves'? By gradual strengthening of sanctions against Tehran for a variety of reasons - from the Iran's missile program to its actions in Syria, which are contrary to the interests of the US - the US can de jure remain committed to the nuclear deal, while de facto withdraw from it. Similarly, the Americans may start to increase pressure on European partners on their joint projects with Iran - there are many European business' pain points in the US, which the Trump administration can press if desired.

If this scenario becomes a reality, and we cannot exclude it, President Hassan Rouhani's main foreign policy project will be destroyed, which cannot but affect his authority within the country. In this case, he will have no choice but to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, which will objectively lose its attractiveness for Iran by that time.

By threatening to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, President Rouhani tries to prevent its devaluation in the future and sends a clear message to his European partners. According to the expert of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), Ali Fathollah-Nejad, in the United States at the moment there is a tendency of a new stigmatization of Iran, while Europe, driven by strong economic motivation, on the contrary, is inclined to extol Iran. "Europe is very interested in economic ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran and would like to continue them even under more difficult conditions, if the US resorts to more stringent measures against Tehran. Rouhani understands it. He knows how the Europeans think and, in my opinion, his speech is an attempt to put an greater pressure on Europeans, so that they soften the toughened US policy towards Tehran," the expert believes.

At the same time, the Iranian president makes it clear to his opponents in the domestic political field that he is ready to withdraw from the nuclear agreement without any delay, as soon as it ceases to correspond to Iran's national interests. Thus, he, anticipating the critics of the nuclear deal, confirms his thesis: in the first place the nuclear deal is beneficial to Iran. But as soon as its costs outweigh the benefits, Tehran is ready to return to the 'state of siege'.