- it seems that the general consensus in Israel would be to consider Trump their champion for pledging to trash the Iran nuclear deal – but not so.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on November 20, 2016. Netanyahu is reportedly scheduled to meet Donald Trump for this first time possibly in March, according to aides. Top of the agenda will be Iran. (Photo MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Much has been made over Donald Trump’s surprising presidential win two weeks ago. The populist new president-elect hasn’t slowed down since then, giving plenty of fodder for both critics as well as supporters to digest.
While Trump puts together his cabinet, he is also talking about energy. According to reports, Trump has short-listed three names for Energy Secretary: James L. Connaughton chief executive of Nautilus Data Technologies and former environmental adviser to President George W. Bush, Robert E. Grady, a Gryphon Investors partner, and Continental Resources chief executive Harold Hamm – a champion of the nation’s oil and gas revolution.
Some of the energy issues facing the new administration include the Keystone XL pipeline, a politically divisive project that had been sidelined repeatedly by the Obama administration and finally rejected last November by the president.
If TransCanada resubmits an application, Trump pledged to green light the pipeline that would snake its way some 1,179-miles (1,897km) from oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would join an existing pipeline. During their first meeting after the election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) asked Trump to prioritize approving the pipeline.
Other energy decisions that will come across the new president’s desk include: considering what to do with the international Paris climate accord Obama has championed, trimming over-regulation that many claim has hobbled the country’s oil and gas industry, and the opening up of federal lands to oil and gas drilling – something that could help restore budget-bleeding Alaska to the forefront of U.S. oil production.
Trump will also consider the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Obama’s Clean Power Plan. That particular plan calls for utilities to lower carbon emissions and was at the heart of Obama’s commitment to the Paris agreement.
However, of all the decisions intersecting energy and geopolitics that the new president will make once he takes office, his decision over the Obama brokered nuclear deal between Iran and the so-called P5+1 (Britain, France, Germany, Russia, the U.S. and the EU) could be the most controversial.
Since Tehran agreed in July 2015 to scale back its nuclear capabilities in return for the lifting of most international sanctions, it has ramped up its oil production and became a major player within OPEC again. Now, at 3.92 million barrels per day (bpd) of output, the country is nearing its pre-sanction output mark of 4 million bpd.
BEDMINSTER TOWNSHIP, NJ – NOVEMBER 20: President-elect Donald Trump steps outside the clubhouse to greet Jonathan Gray, member of the Board of Directors at Blackstone, before their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, November 20, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Moreover, the lifting of sanctions from Iran’s energy sector could play a decisive role in the OPEC oil production cut meeting in Vienna later this month. With Iran near pre-sanction levels and with the country regaining valuable market share, the country could finally agree to participate in a cut agreement this time.
Obama tries to secure Iran deal
Despite Trump’s pledge to rip up the Iran nuclear deal, the Obama administration is still forging ahead trying to secure it. Senior officials said yesterday that the administration is considering new measures in its final months in office to strengthen agreement. Action under consideration to buttress the pact includes steps to provide licenses for more American businesses to enter the Iranian market and the lifting of additional U.S. sanctions, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The officials were also quick to point out that the proposed new measures aren’t aimed at boxing in the new president-elect. They added that the proposals also are unlikely to make the nuclear agreement more difficult to rescind.
Israel’s take on Trump and Iran Deal
Of all the players impacted by the Iran nuclear deal and one that was most at odds with President Obama over its implementation has been Israel. Consequently, at first blush it seems that the general consensus in Israel would be to consider Trump their champion for pledging to trash the Iran nuclear deal – but not so.
Shemuel Meir, a former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) analyst and associate researcher at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University says that the Iran deal is “beneficial to Israeli security, and thus must be safeguarded,” adding that the deal “removed the existential threat hovering above Israel.”
He said it “blocked Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, and prevented the emergence of an arms race in the Middle East.” He argues that “without an Iranian nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have no incentive to obtain nuclear weapons, thus preventing a domino scenario.”
“The deal also closed off the chapter of pre-emption strikes scenarios on Iran’s military targets and reduced the risks for a new and long regional war. A possibility that could become relevant should Iran deal be ripped up,” he says.
Others in the country agree. Two days after Trump’s win, The Times of Israel said that rolling back the Iran deal could isolate the U.S., alienate international allies, and play into the Iranian’s hands. Similar views have been common in the country.
However, most Israeli politicians are looking forward to Trump’s harder line against Iran. Aides for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that the two leaders plan to meet in the first half of next year, probably by March, while the Israeli leader is already meeting with national security advisers to formulate a strategy.
A senior Israeli official said last week that Netanyahu is expected to tell Trump that Washington needs to take a harder line against Iran’s military program and lead a more concerted global effort to keep the country’s regional aspirations in check.
In August, the the Israeli Defense Ministry pulled no punches, comparing the Iran deal to the Munich Agreement signed by European powers with Nazi Germany in 1938. Many historians claim that western powers caved into Germany after the agreement, which led to World War II.
As far as Iran’s energy sector is concerned, any renegotiating or rescinding of the nuclear deal could eventually lead to fresh sanctions being put in place, while setting back the country’s oil and gas sector, with a corresponding knock-on effect on global oil production and supply.
Tags: ballistic missiles, Britain, Energy Secretary, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, EU, France, Germany, international Paris climate accord, Iran, Iran Nuclear Deal, Iran's military, Iran’s energy sector, Israel, Keystone XL pipeline, Nautilus Data Technologies, Nebraska, Netanyahu, nuclear, Obama Administration, Obama’s Clean Power Plan, oil and gas sector, OPEC, OPEC oil production, Paris Climate Agreement, pipelines, Russia, sanctions, Steele City, TransCanada, Trump, U.S., U.S. sanctions