Economy, Business And Markets

Why Iran Deal Will Survive Trump Presidency

Donald TrumpDonald Trump

Trump’s triumph is sending shockwaves through the foreign policy community, particularly among supporters of the Iran nuclear deal. Reuters has already reported that Trump’s election puts the Iran Deal “on shaky ground”.

Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, which supported the Iran Deal, noted to The New York Times that it was unclear whether Trump “would deliberately or inadvertently take actions that unravel that agreement”.

Trump’s win no doubt introduces uncertainty into the already complicated status of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. But the notion that Trump can or will single-handedly dismantle JCPOA overstates his likely power as president, reads an article published in Bourse & Bazaar.

Factors constraining his ability to unravel the Iran deal include the essential security implications of the Iran deal for Russia and the economic ambitions of Europe, reads an article published in Bourse & Bazaar.

The following jumps straight to the economic interests of Europe in post-sanctions Iran.

Stuck in the middle of this scenario is Europe. The European interest in the Iran deal is largely economic. Economic development in Iran benefits European economies. As such, Europe cares more about implementation of sanctions relief than perhaps any other actor.

The Trump presidency will no doubt slow the process of implementation in the near-term. But European companies have yet to directly push US policymakers regarding the lingering challenges of doing business with Iran.

Some observers in Iran went so far as to suggest that Trump’s business background will make him amenable to working with Tehran. Although this might be a leap too far, the notion that “money speaks” for President Trump could hold water.

To the same extent that Trump’s arrival in Washington confuses the foreign policy community, it may do the same for lobbyists. Multinational businesses have an opportunity here to exert influence in the advocacy vacuum if they can get the right mechanisms in place.

Given the first and second points made here, the bar will be relatively low: prevent interference in the deal.

Perhaps this explains the brave words already coming from key European actors regarding Iran. French oil giant Total, which this week announced a major investment in Iran’s gas industry, has indicated that “the election that took place in the United States does not change anything” regarding its projects in Iran.

Other European industrial firms are likely to take a similar view—after all a Clinton administration would have posed its own challenges regarding the political and compliance risks of engaging with Iran.

Importantly, Iran deal implementation is the responsibility of a group of civil servants at the US State Department and Treasury, and these individuals are unlikely to be moved from the Iran file, even if Trump’s secretary of state is a vocal opponent of the deal. But the new administration’s foreign policy posture will probably sap the ability of the US State Department and Treasury to actively work on implementation issues through outreach.

So, although the deal’s survival may not be under threat, the Trump impact on implementation will certainly limit the scope of its success. To address implementation, outside actors will need to take on greater responsibility to define challenges, devise policy solutions and drive advocacy. Selling-in policy suggestions to the Trump administration might become the true “art of the deal”.

In some ways, it is saddening to once again return to a “great-game” type discussion of US-Iran relations in the Middle East, and to suggest that better lobbying might be a way to mitigate the impact of Trump’s presidency. However, Trump’s ascendency is merely a step backwards on a journey that has been halting and complicated from the outset.

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