Donald Trump has finally withdrawn the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. This decision was made despite assurances from international inspectors of Iran’s compliance with the terms and conditions stipulated in the agreement. Experts have argued that the decision has the potential to ignite a trade war with the European Union and further pushes Iran down the nuclear path. Many observers of international politics would consider it an act of madness. However, there is surely a method to this madness. Firstly, America and its allies in the Middle East believe Iran has benefited from foreign investment, oil sales and lucrative trade deals as a consequence of the nuclear deal. Renewed contacts in the international trade arena have encouraged Iran to expand its strategic clout in the Middle East. The Saudis are incensed at what they see as Iranian footprints on Arab land. Israelis have their own fears regarding Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its growing influence in the Middle East. The proxy war between Iran and Israel has already escalated in Syria. Moreover, Iran is also keen to strengthen ties in South Asia. It has urged Pakistan to materialise the IP gas pipeline and is eager to connect with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Sanctions could have the best possible effect of crippling the Iranian economy and coercing Iran into a new deal that covers not only nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles but also a massive rundown of Iranian ‘operations’ in the Middle East. The Iranians are already speculating a Saudi-US hand behind Muqtada Al Sadr’s election victory in Iraq. From an American perspective, an economically shattered Iran will lack the will and capacity to interfere in Middle East politics. Financing proxy wars and sustaining military/intelligence operations in Iraq and Syria would become a tedious task. The only madness underlying Trump’s decision to squash the Iran deal could stem from his obsession to undo Obama’s legacy Secondly, through the re-imposition of sanctions, the US is also betting against a more serious eventuality: regime collapse. Recently, reports have emerged about public strikes and rallies in Iran over unemployment and inflation. A currency crisis has also been lurking around for many years. Although the lifting of sanctions provided the regime with an opportunity to redress the country’s economic woes, it seems chronic corruption and obsession with regional politics have offset the internal advantages that the country could have drawn from the deal. In Trump’s view, if America imposes the so-called ‘strongest sanctions in history’, the Iranian regime could succumb to its economic miseries and mounting public discontent. Thirdly, conflict and turbulence suit America’s war economy. The US is already taking advantage of regional rivalries in the Middle East by signing lucrative arms deals with its strategic partners in the region. Many commentators are also predicting a US-Iran war as a worst-case scenario. However,at this moment there are little prospects of an all-out war between Iran and the US. Barring the rhetoric on both sides, it is all too obvious that Tehran is in no position to challenge Washington to a direct military confrontation. America’s strategic interests in the Middle East also rule out a possibility of a direct war. Besides, the United States lacks the domestic and international support to invade Iran should it wish to do so. Nonetheless, a word of caution is in order. Given the high stakes and sensitivities as well as the increasing hostility between regional powers in the Middle East, one cannot completely rule out the possibility of a direct war. The United States, urged by Israel and Saudi Arabia, can also consider limited air strikes on Iranian military and nuclear facilities. Iran, too, may be tempted to escalate the confrontation with Israel and Saudi Arabia into a military showdown. Finally, the US-Europe trade war is not really about Iran deal. This war had already begun before Trump’s decision to exit the Iran deal. Presently, Iranian traces on the international economy are too vague and small to trigger an international economic crisis. Moreover, the EU cannot risk its trade prospects with the US for Iranian markets, given the large volume of trade between America and the European Union. Nonetheless, Trump’s move, no matter how cleverly planned, runs the risk of a backfire. Sanctions could lead Iran to consider nuclear weapons as the only salvation against the US and Saudi-Israel threat. Moreover, there is a possibility that the Iranian public could unite as one nation in the face of this threat. This could further bolster the regime’s credentials. Even if the regime does collapse, nothing can guarantee its replacement with a US-friendly government. Finally, in the long run, such unilateral decisions could also isolate the United States from its closest allies in Europe. The only madness underlying Trump’s decision to squash the Iran deal could stem from his obsession to undo Obama’s legacy. He has already followed this course of action in other areas. The same obsession may have inspired this decision too. Perhaps, nothing in the world can reconcile the white supremacist Trump with decisions made by his black predecessor. The writer is an independent researcher in public policy and international politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, May 29th 2018.