By Javad Heirannia

Trump’s demand from Congress, EU about JCPOA based on flawed assumptions: Kimball

February 28, 2018

TEHRAN - Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, is the opinion that “Trump’s demand that Congress and the EU3 address what he describes as “flaws” in the agreement is based on flawed assumptions.”

“Conditioning continued U.S. participation in the agreement on achieving changes through unilateral action is unworkable,” Kimball tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: President Trump has announced that removing time limitations for Iran’s nuclear activities, unrestricted inspections and relating Iran’s missile program to the JCPOA are necessary for the US not to withdraw from the JCPOA. Will the Europe accept these conditions? What about Iran?

A: Trump’s demand that Congress and the EU3 address what he describes as “flaws” in the agreement is based on flawed assumptions. Conditioning continued U.S. participation in the agreement on achieving changes through unilateral action is unworkable.

Additional inspections authorities dictated by Congress of the U.S. and the EU3 are unnecessary and risk undermining the independence and integrity of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Under the JCPOA, key nuclear activities in Iran are subject to continuous monitoring to verify Iran is abiding by the deal. The IAEA also has timely access to both declared and undeclared sites. Declared sites, whether they are consider “military sites” or are nonmilitary sites, can be visited on short notice and key sites can be inspected on a daily basis if requested by the agency.

Unilaterally demanding an extension of JCPOA’s nuclear-related restrictions on Iran under threat of reimposing sanctions would violate the deal. The JCPOA requires that the United States  seek the statutory lifting of sanctions eight years after adoption day. If Washington intends to threaten automatic reimposition of sanctions in perpetuity if Iran resumes certain nuclear activities, Congress cannot make a good faith effort to statutorily lift the measures.

Furthermore, the United States does not need to seek a basis now in order to respond to future, hypothetical Iranian actions. If national intelligence or evidence obtained by the IAEA were to emerge in the future that Iran had resumed nuclear-weapons related activities in violation of its NPT commitments, the United States should work multilaterally, as it did leading up to the JCPOA, to pursue a response supported by the international community.

Thus far, Congress has wisely refrained from pursuing legislation that would violate the JCPOA or seek to change its terms. Legislation that violates the agreement by unilaterally attempting to extend or alter the nuclear restrictions on Iran poses just as great a risk as Trump revoking the waivers, which would put the United States in material breach of its JCPOA commitments.

It is abundantly clear that Washington’s P5+1 negotiating partners, (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) reject Trump’s proposals. Instead, the EU3 argue, there may be an opportunity to negotiate with Iran arrangements that build upon the JCPOA, but that will only be possible, they say, if all side fully implement and respect the original 2015 deal.

Q: Over the past 3 month the European states have made lots of efforts to convince the US congress and administration that a better agreement with Iran cannot be possible made on the ruins of the JCPOA. Will the EU and the US congress be able to reach an agreement on the JCPOA that can meet Trump’s demands? What can be like such a possible agreement?

A: It may be possible that the Trump administration and the EU3 can agree to work together on a plan to address certain issues outside the scope of the JCPOA, such as Iran’s support for militias and mlitary forces in the greater Middle East region and to address concerns that Iran may seek to develop and test long-range ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons. It may also

Q: Iran has strongly said that it will not accept any changes to the JCPOA and will not accept any limitation on its missile program. And from the other side EU is under Trump’s pressure. How can EU meet Trump’s demands so that at the same time allow Iran to get benefit from the JCPOA?

A: While the JCPOA does not cover Iran’s ballistic missile activities, the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses the deal, calls upon Iran to refrain from testing ballistic missiles designed to be nuclear-capable. While this is a nonbinding condition, the eight-year prohibitions on selling or purchasing certain ballistic missiles and related technologies without prior approval from the Security Council are absolute.

Since the Iran nuclear deal was implemented in January 2016, the UN secretary-general has issued four reports assessing the implementation the resolution. Several of the reports, including the most recent in December 2017, call into question Iran’s compliance with the restrictions, noting several allegations of illicit transfer of ballistic missile systems.

The JCPOA does not rule out missile-related sanctions. The United States and Europe could cooperate on further sanctions to address Iran’s ballistic missile activity, but given Iran’s own security concerns and the current U.S.-Iranian tensions, such an effort is unlikely to affect Iran’s missile programs and plans in a significant way.

What may be a more useful would be for the EU to engage with Iran in discussions on region-wide missile limits and for Iran to reiterate, and perhaps formalize, its existing commitment not to develop or pursue ballistic missiles to a range of 2,000 kilometers or more. A region-wide agreement limiting ballistic missile numbers and payload capacity could be an important way to reduce tensions and improve security in the region.

Q: What can be the EU alternative, if the US withdraws from the JCPOA? If the US withdraws, the situation for investment and working in Iran will worsen. In this case what real guarantees can be offered to Iran by the EU?

A: If Trump backs out of the accord and tries to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions absent clear evidence of Iranian violations, the United States would be blamed, international support for new sanctions would be soft or non-existent. If Iran chose to respond by exceeding the nuclear limits set by the deal or by taking more aggressive military action in Syria or Yemen or elsewhere, international investment and trade with Iran would dry up and the Iranian economy would suffer. This would be a lose-lose scenario for everyone.

If Trump decides not to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions against Iran that were lifted under the terms of the JCPOA, European entities, which would be subject to secondary U.S. sanctions, will likely try to take precautions to insulate their commercial and financial entities with exposure in Iran from such U.S. penalties.

Q: EU can ask EBRD bank to monitor the small and medium companies’ exchanges in order to not let the remaining sanctions be evaded. What bank guarantees can EU offer to Iran?

A: Yes, it is possible for the European Union to create a “safe channel” for trade and investment with Iran to continue. Another option would be for the European Union to put in place regulations to protect its firms doing business in Iran if the United States withdraws from the 2015 nuclear deal and restores extraterritorial sanctions. This could sustain major trade and investment that was opened up when the JCPOA was implemented, but there would still be a cloud of uncertainty about the future of the JCPOA that could impede foreign trade and investment. It may also be a difficult decision for the Europeans because it would create a major rift with the United States and could limit European firm’s access to the U.S. banking system.

The bottom line is that there is no realistic option for scrapping the agreement and negotiating a “better deal.”The best approach, by far, would be to continue to implement and vigorously enforce the multilateral nuclear deal and seek to build global support for the widespread adoption of its most innovative verification and nonproliferation measures.

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