Donald Trump is set to maintain the 2015 “nuclear deal” with Iran when it comes up for renewal on 17 January.
Under the deal Iran is obliged to restrict its nuclear programme in return for the easing of international sanctions.
Trump had previously declared his intention to undo the nuclear deal, denouncing it as weakness in the face of the regime. Accordingly, he has had to hedge his renewal of the deal with much tough-sounding bluster and secondary sanctions.
Trump and Republican politicians have suggested setting a deadline for “improvements” to the deal, including getting rid of the “sunset clause” under which the deal will expire in 2025, and expanding the powers the deal gives to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
At the same time, the Trump administration has pursued second-line sanctions policies targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who were classified a terror group by the US Treasury in October 2017, and other groups and individuals including the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani.
The decision to maintain the nuclear deal and sustain Iran’s economic opening to the west was surely motivated by the substantial economic interests that western capitalists have acquired in Iran, such as substantial recent deals between Iranian airlines and France’s Airbus aeroplane manufacturer. It may also be due to the reasonable calculation that restoring the sanctions regime would strengthen conservative, revanchist factions in the Iranian ruling class, allowing them to blame falling living standards on foreign enemies rather than their own profit-gouging.
Meanwhile protests in Iran have spread to the massive South Pars gas field and the fuel tanker fleet, while regular protests outside the notorious Evin prison in Tehran and socialist-led worker militancy in the Haft-Tappeh sugarcane complex continue.
There have been solidarity rallies with the Iranian protest movement in over 50 cities around the world.