Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 June 2019

Rogue regimes, such as Iran, must be confronted and challenged

Donald Trump's speech has stirred up mixed reaction, but he was right to tackle Tehran head on

Hassan Rouhani, Iran's president. Lucas Jackson / Reuters
Hassan Rouhani, Iran's president. Lucas Jackson / Reuters

After the fire, the fury. When Donald Trump, the US president, laid out his combative new strategy on Iran in the historic surroundings of the White House diplomatic reception room last week, he effectively cajoled the international community into thinking about Tehran in a binary way. Either you agreed with his view that Iran was intent on pursuing a ruinous path of “death and destruction” or you did not.

As we now know, many in the international community have expressed their disappointment with his plan. As The National reported, John Kerry, the former secretary of state who negotiated the agreement, accused Mr Trump of "creating an international crisis". Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s head of foreign policy, reminded the US president that it was not a “bilateral agreement. It does not belong to any single country. And it is not up to any single country to terminate it. It is a multilateral agreement”. Other prominent heads of state, such as Emmanuel Macron, Theresa May and Angela Merkel, all reiterated their continued support for the deal. In contrast, many in this region have praised the US president’s move. Saudi Arabia expressed support for Mr Trump’s “resolute strategy”. Bahrain is another advocate of the US president’s actions, while the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation said in an official statement that “the new US strategy takes necessary steps to confront Iran’s malign behaviour in all its forms”.

Those outside this region may be surprised that a multilateral agreement that appears to hold Tehran to a set of actions and behaviours should be viewed with such suspicion by those countries on this side of the Arabian Gulf.

To understand why, it is worth looking further at the Iranian nuclear programme. Yukiya Amano, the International Atomic Energy Authority’s director general, said last week that “the nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action are being implemented”. Iran is, in other words, meeting its obligations, although it is telling that it is not exceeding them. Compare that to the peaceful nuclear power programme rising from the sand on this side of the Gulf. It is described as the “gold standard” for nuclear development in terms of transparency, trust and ethics. It is, without doubt, exceeding expectations rather than just meeting them.


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The international community always saw the nuclear deal with Iran as the start of a broader and more functional relationship with Tehran. Iran, on the other hand, viewed it as an opportunity to comply with a small set of demands, while bagging a large amount of cash from sanctions-relief and being able to continue to support terrorism and sow discord with relative impunity.

The US president said last week “this behaviour cannot be tolerated” any longer. Those who cling to the idea that Tehran is complying with the deal should look more closely at the soul of the Iranian regime. At its heart it a pattern of recklessness and destabilisation that threatens the entire region. Mr Trump’s actions confront Tehran head on. Standing up to rogue regimes is not easy, but in this case it is absolutely necessary.

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Updated: October 15, 2017 03:51 PM