9 May 2018

US withdrawal won't impact Iranians, expert says

6:56 pm on 9 May 2018

The US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal will have little impact on everyday Iranians, an expert on Middle Eastern politics says.

Iranians walk past mural in Tehran on May 8.

Iranians walk past mural in Tehran on May 8. Photo: AFP

US President Donald Trump announced today that the US will withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions, calling the deal "defective at its core."

Mr Trump has been highly critical of the 2015 accord, under which Iran limited its nuclear activities.

"This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made," Mr Trump said at the White House. "It didn't bring calm. It didn't bring peace. And it never will."

In a statement, France, Germany and the UK - who are also signatories to the deal - have said they "regret" the American decision.

Dr Lina Khatib, head of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House in London, said the withdrawal gives the regime an opportunity to present itself in a positive light.

"Hardliners will use this to show they were right to be suspicious of US intentions," she said.

"Why would Iran agree with a bigger deal when the US let it down on a smaller deal."

Ms Khatib said it also presents an opportunity for Iran's allies such as China and Russia.

"They'll say 'we told you so, we should not trust the West - the West will do a deal then cancel it when it wants'."

She said the withdrawal will have little impact on the ground for Iranians, with other all other signatories sticking with the deal as it remains.

Israel and Saudi Arabia supported Mr Trump's decision to withdraw, but Ms Khatib said she doubted it would significantly escalate conflict between the states.

"I don't think Iran will want to strike Israel ... It won't want to provoke Israel into attack."

Ms Khatib said any conflict would likely take place in proxy states.

Iran could order more missile strikes into Saudi Arabia from Yemen and there could be more activity between Israel and Iran in Syria, she said.

Efforts under way to revive deal

The other signatories to the accord have all signalled their continuing support for the deal, which gives iran relief from economic sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme

The UK, France and Germany say they "will work with all remaining parties" and urged the US not to obstruct its implementation.

The other signatories to the 2015 deal - Russia and China - have also stressed their continuing support.

Iran says it is working to salvage the deal without US involvement.