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Minimize impact of U.S. decision to withdraw from Iran nuclear deal

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe nuclear deal reached in 2015 by Iran and six world powers, including the United States and major European nations, has achieved its objective of curbing Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. This precedent for a diplomatic solution to a nuclear problem must not be allowed to collapse.

U.S. President Donald Trump has announced the United States will withdraw from the nuclear deal and ordered the reinstatement of its sanctions against Iran that were lifted under the agreement.

The current agreement is “defective” and could not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The deal fails to address Iran’s ballistic missile development and its destabilizing activities in the region. Trump raised these points when explaining his decision to pull out of the agreement.

Indeed, the deal restricts Iran’s nuclear activities only for a maximum of 15 years. There would be no checks on these activities after that. It is also problematic that Iran has boosted its regional influence by intervening in civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

However, Trump’s decision to unilaterally turn his back on the deal without offering any concrete alternative plan can be described only as imprudent. With U.S. congressional midterm elections looming in November, there seems to be a strong aspect of Trump’s attempt to appeal to his supporters by rejecting a foreign policy achievement of the administration of his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.

The nuclear deal was a multilateral framework between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.

In exchange for the United States, European nations and other countries lifting economic sanctions and an embargo on Iran’s crude oil exports, Tehran reduced its uranium enrichment activities that could eventually lead to the development of nuclear weapons. Iran also accepted inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Japan must play key role

The U.N. Security Council endorsed the nuclear deal and adopted a resolution that lifted the council’s sanctions on Iran. The IAEA has verified that Iran was abiding by the agreement. If Trump had a beef with the deal, he should have discussed the matter with the relevant nations and obtained their consent on an improved plan in advance.

In a joint statement, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany said the U.S. decision to withdraw was a matter of “regret and concern.” The leaders rightly urged Iran to show restraint in its response. Vigilance also will be needed against Iran using the U.S. decision as an excuse to take steps that violate the agreement.

It is vital that the nuclear deal does not collapse, and that the central components relating to the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities remain intact.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran will remain in the deal for the time being and indicated a willingness to respond to negotiations with the five major partners in the agreement, excluding the United States. Tehran appears to decide what steps to take next after carefully watching how the reinstatement of U.S. sanctions impacts on investment by Europe, China and other nations in Iran and on its crude oil trading.

Japan supports the continuation of the nuclear deal, from the perspective that it contributes to the enhancement of the international nuclear nonproliferation system and stability in the Middle East. The government needs to urge both Washington and Tehran to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

A close watch also must be kept on repercussions for the economy, such as rising crude oil prices.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 10, 2018)Speech



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