Fears mount Trump's step may have explosive consequences
Tension in the Middle East escalates, Iran and Israel confront on Syria
11 May, 2018
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani makes a statement over Trump's decision, Tehran, 8 May.
An anti-US mural is painted on the wall of the former US Embassy in Tehran.
US President Donald Trump holds up the national security memorandum on Iran, just signed by him in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, 8 May.
Tension in the Middle East rose higher last week as President Donald Trump announced the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, and Israel struck Iranian targets in Syria in response to rocket fire at Israeli military positions in the occupied Golan Heights. “It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement,” Trump said from the White House Diplomatic Room on Tuesday. “The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen”. Trump said he would initiate new sanctions on the regime, and even more, any country that helps Iran obtain nuclear weapons would also be “strongly sanctioned”. New US sanctions will undoubtedly cause companies to reconsider investments in Iran and European firms may have no choice but to scale back or risk running afoul of US rules.
Trump's decision could have explosive consequences, straining longstanding US alliances, disrupting oil markets and boosting tensions in the Middle East, even if the US reversal doesn't lead Iran to restart its atomic programme, observers noted. Analysts and critics also said the decision undermines Washington's credibility in future negotiations, particularly with North Korea and potentially empowers the hardliners in Iran.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said he had ordered the country's atomic industry to be ready to restart industrial uranium enrichment, while the country's foreign minister said he would work with the pact's remaining partners - France, the UK, Germany, China and Russia - to see whether they could ensure “full benefits for Iran”. Rouhani, a relative moderate, faced down hardliners at home to reach the agreement with world powers as part of a policy to open up the country and its economy to the outside world. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that Tehran would quit the landmark 2015 nuclear deal unless European signatories offered solid guarantees that trade relations would continue even after the US' withdrawal. “I said from the first day: don't trust America,” Khamenei stressed.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told CNN that he fears that “new crises” will break out in the Middle East as a result of the US decision. Trump's decision was hailed by Washington's two main Middle East allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The deal was “a recipe for disaster, a disaster for our region, a disaster for the peace of the world,” Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said in praising the US president for the move.
Two days after Trump's announcement, Israel fired dozens of rockets into Syria, hitting a radar installation and an ammunitions dump, Syrian state media reported as Israel's military said Iranian forces in Syria had shelled one of its outposts near the border. The scale of Israeli fire was far higher than in previous incidents, and Damascus residents described seeing a series of explosions above the city from air defence systems. Israel called up reserves, and the State Department issued a security alert for US citizens in the Golan Heights.