At a recent joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini significantly stated, “We will ensure that engagement with Iran will continue and that the deal will be implemented in all its parts by all. This means the nuclear part; this means also all the rest like the lifting of sanctions, as you know, and the gradual re-engagement in all sectors.”
To this end, the most prudent option for the Trump administration would be to uphold America’s credibility and UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses the deal, by remaining committed to the JCPOA and simultaneously seeking to resolve differences with Iran over the region through pragmatic diplomacy.
The source of US contention with Iran has little to do with where the Islamic Republic stands on human rights or terrorism of the flavor that has ravaged Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya and killed countless innocents in the West. It is well-known that on human rights, Iran is light-years ahead of some of America’s closest regional allies such as Saudi Arabia. Moreover, both Hillary Clinton and Trump lambasted Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest funder of terrorism.
A former Qatari prime minister has also recently admitted how the United States, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey all made “mistakes” in supporting extremist groups in Syria. The fact is that Iran is the only regional power directly fighting the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, who likely would have captured Baghdad and Damascus if not for Iran’s intervention.
However, a number of realities cannot be denied. First, the United States and Iran have sharply clashing interests in the region. While the United States views Iran’s regional influence as destabilizing, Iran sees America’s decadeslong underwriting of regional autocracies and its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and complicity in the Yemeni-Saudi conflict as spurring instability and fostering terrorism.