Arab League calls for revised nuclear deal

Iranian workers stand in front of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, about 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran, Iran.

Dubai: The Arab League on Wednesday called for the Iran nuclear deal to be revised, a day after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the historic accord.

“It’s necessary to revise the agreement,” Arab League chief Ahmad Abul Gheit said, expressing the “exasperation” of Arab nations in the face of the “destabilising politics” of Iran in the region.

Egypt said on Wednesday that Arab nations must be involved in any future efforts to amend the international nuclear deal on Iran following US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from it.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry also said Iran must abide by its commitments under the separate nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty “in a way that will ensure that Iran remains as a country free of nuclear weapons.”.

A ministry statement called for Arab participation in any future dialogue on regional issues “especially that which is related to the possibility of amending the nuclear deal with Iran”.

Meanwhile, Arab commentators said the US decision to pull out of the nuclear was “correct and timely”. US President Donald Trump decision to withdraw the United States.

“I believe it was the right move,” said Nabil Al Hamar, advisor for information affairs to the King of Bahrain Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifah.

“(Since the deal was reached) We have not seen any positive behaviour from Iran towards peace and security in the Gulf region,” Al Hamar said in an interview with Gulf News.

“Instead, Iran stepped up its interference in others’ affairs, supported to terrorist organisations.”

Arab Gulf states accuse Iran of interfering in their own internal affairs and of sowing the sectarian differences in the region. Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab alliance in Yemen against Al Houthis’ militias, which is supported by Iran.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia the UAE, and Bahrain welcomed President Trump’s move.

Analysts believe a US pull-out will ultimately make Iran weaker, because of the renewed sanctions.

“Iran is weaker today than yesterday,” said UAE political scientist Abdul Khaleq Abdullah.

“In the zero-sum game, a weaker Iran means a stronger Riyadh and its allies,” he told Gulf News.

“The nuclear deal, which was signed in 2015, was marketed as a tool to make it a force of moderation and stability but we have no seen that in the past two and a half years,” Abdullah said.

“If Iran decides to accelerate its uranium enrichment programme, it will face preemptive military strikes by the US,” Saudi political science professor Waheed Hamza Hashem, told Gulf News.

In such a scenario, Iran is the loser because it doesn’t have the developed air defenses to stop any American attacks, he said.

Washington will now seek a better deal which protects its strategic interests in the Gulf region and to prevent the eruption of a larger military conflict, he explained.

Meanwhile, European leaders, unhappy with the US decision, opened a diplomatic push Wednesday to salvage the Iran nuclear accord without the United States, opening direct talks with Tehran but also looking ahead to possible battles with Washington over European business ties with Iran.

“The deal is not dead,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, speaking on France’s RTL radio.

“There’s an American withdrawal from the deal, but the deal is still there.”

The sentiment was shared in other capitals backing the 2015 nuclear deal: Brussels, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran.

European leaders now plan to engage directly with Iran in hopes of keeping alive the deal, which placed limits on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for lifting international sanctions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday there should be talks about a broader agreement that goes beyond the original accord.

While Merkel said she regreted President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear accord, she said a broader agreement was needed to rein in regional and international concerns over its behaviour.

Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader chastised President Donald Trump over his decision to pull America out of the 2015 nuclear deal and warned that Tehran would quit a key nuclear deal unless European signatories offered solid guarantees that trade relations would continue after the US withdrew.

Addressing Iran’s government in a televised speech, Khamenei said: “If you don’t succeed in obtaining a definitive guarantee – and I really doubt that you can – at that moment, we cannot continue like this

Meanwhile, lawmakers lit a paper US flag on fire inside parliament, shouting, “Death to America!”

The government backlash reflected broad public anger in Iran over Trump’s decision, which threatens to destroy the landmark agreement.

While Iranian officials, including the parliament speaker, say they hope Europe will work with them to preserve the deal, many are pessimistic.

The 2015 agreement imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for the lifting of most US and international sanctions.

However, the deal came with time limits and did not address Iran’s ballistic missile programme or its support for militant groups across the region branded as terrorists by the West.

Trump has repeatedly pointed to those omissions in referring to the accord as the “worst deal ever.”

Proponents of the deal have said those time limits were meant to encourage more discussion with Iran in the future that could eventually address other concerns.

Late Tuesday night, President Hassan Rouhani said he’d be sending Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the countries still in the deal – China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Iran hopes the European Union will pass laws to protect European firms from any potential US sanctions.

EU officials have suggested they’ll do what they can to salvage the agreement.

Still, Rouhani made a point of stressing that Iran, at any time, could resume its nuclear programme.

“If necessary, we can begin our industrial enrichment without any limitations,” the Iranian leader said.

“Until implementation of this decision, we will wait for some weeks and will talk with our friends and allies and other signatories of the nuclear deal.”

Many Iranians are worried about what Trump’s decision could mean for their country.

The Iranian rial is already trading on the black market at 66,000 to the dollar, despite a government-set rate of 42,000 rials. Many say they have not seen any benefits from the nuclear deal.

Iran’s poor economy and unemployment sparked nationwide protests in December and January that saw at least 25 people killed and, reportedly, nearly 5,000 arrested.

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