The Straits Times says

Sticking to nuclear deal with Iran

The 2015 framework nuclear agreement between Iran and the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, joined by Germany and the European Union, must count as one of the signal diplomatic successes of the Barack Obama administration. For precisely this reason perhaps, the deal has drawn the vitriolic criticism of Mr Donald Trump, who has carried his antipathy displayed on the stump into the Oval Office. In July, the New York Times said that Mr Trump had tasked his aides to find a rationale for declaring that Iran has been violating the terms of the accord. More recently, he suggested that he may not re-certify the agreement when it comes up for review by a mid-October deadline.

Should Mr Trump follow through on the threat, the United States Congress would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the accord, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. That would undoubtedly trigger the deal's unravelling, perhaps the intended result sought by Mr Trump. In pushing in this direction, Mr Trump is ignoring the advice of not only his Secretaries for State and Defence, neither of whom is considered soft on Iran, but also the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of the US Strategic Command. That two of the top US military officials are publicly contradicting their commander-in-chief suggests that they believe the deal is in their country's best interest.

Eighty of the world's leading non-proliferation experts, in a joint statement on Sept 13, argued that the nuclear deal "has proven to be an effective and verifiable arrangement that is a net plus" for non-proliferation efforts. With the exception of Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran's ideological and sectarian foes, respectively, this is a deal that everyone wants to see honoured. They recognise that conflict would be more likely, not less, by abrogating it. Besides, the world would be forfeiting the access it currently enjoys to verifiably monitor the programme. International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano recently confirmed that Iran has allowed his agency unimpeded access and short-notice inspections.

In short, the Iranians have kept their word. So should the US. Coming on the heels of Mr Trump's disavowal of the Paris climate change accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, scrapping the Iran deal and reimposing sanctions on the country would make the US an untrustworthy partner in any deal, strategic or commercial. It would also rule out any diplomatic solution to the steaming global crisis over the sustained nuclear and missile testing by North Korea. What upside is there for Mr Kim Jong Un to deal with such a renegade? If anything, Mr Trump's unreliability makes Mr Kim even look rational in his pursuit. The US would carry more credibility if it focuses on Iran's missile testing instead.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2017, with the headline 'Sticking to nuclear deal with Iran'. Print Edition | Subscribe