EU, U.S. working secretly to weaken Iran domestically, regionally: Entessar

February 6, 2018

Professor Nader Entessar from South Alabama University says he does not trust many of the public statements of the Europeans about their full commitment to the JCPOA.

While the EU’s top officials have warned Donald Trump of “no alternative” to Iran’s nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), many experts believe that the EU is not able to stand against the U.S. pressure.

Nader Entessar, Professor and Chair of Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice, at the University of South Alabama is among experts who believe many of the public statements of the Europeans about their full commitment to the JCPOA should not be trusted and taken seriously. 

Following is the full text of his interview:

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

A:For all practical purposes, the Trump administration has already withdrawn from the JCPOA.  Whether it will formally withdraw from the agreement or not is a moot issue for Iran at this point.  If a party to an agreement repeatedly violates the letter and the spirit of an agreement, as the U.S. has done with respect to its obligations under the JCPOA, it is a clear and unambiguous signal that it no longer intends to fulfil its commitments.  As far as Europe is concerned, some European countries are already in serious talks with the Trump administration to draft new restrictions on Iran's missile and defense capabilities.  Of course, the Europeans may not add these conditions to the JCPOA, but they would like to have another side agreement to include these restrictions.  Iran has repeatedly stated that it will not accept any changes and additions to the JCPOA.  I am not sure if there is unanimity or strong will among all Iranian officials on this issue.  I hope that Iran will not succumb to European pressure and compromise on the country's vital defense capabilities. 

Q:Over the past three months, the European states have made attempts to convince the U.S. administration and Congress that a better agreement with Iran cannot be made on the ruins of the JCPOA. Will the EU and the U.S. be able to reach an agreement on the JCPOA that can meet Trump’s demands? What could such an agreement be like?

A:Unfortunately, I do not trust many of the public statements of the Europeans about their full commitment to the JCPOA.  My sense is that both the Europeans and various elements of the U.S. government are working behind the scene to come up with a package that will satisfy the Trump administration's demands.  In other words, they are working on an agreement that will further weaken Iran domestically and trivialize its regional role.  The Europeans will try to sugarcoat such an agreement as a "win-win" pact but the bottom line is that such an agreement will further erode Iran's sovereignty and expose the country to more intimidation and threats.

Q:Iran has declared repeatedly that it won’t accept any changes to the JCPOA and won’t allow any restrictions on its missile program. Although the EU appears to respect the JCPOA, it is under Trump’s pressure. How can the EU meet Trump’s demands without jeopardizing Iran’s benefit from the JCPOA?

A:The simple answer to your question is that many of Trump's new demands and the 5+1 obligations under the JCPOA are diametrically opposed to each other.  As I indicated before, the U.S. has decided to jettison its obligations under the JCPOA.   The EU cannot meet President Trump's demands without violating its own obligations under the Iran nuclear agreement.   We are at a crossroads with respect to the JCPOA.  The Europeans will have to come clean in terms of their level of commitments under the Iran nuclear deal.  The time for issuing statements, holding press conferences, and making publicity trips to Iran is over.  As a signatory to the JCPOA, EU-3 countries owe Iran a clear answer, and they have to back their words by concrete and measurable actions now.

Q:What could be the EU’s alternative route if the U.S. withdraws from the JCPOA? In case of U.S. withdrawal, the situation for investment in Iran will worsen. What real guarantees can be offered to Iran by the EU?

A:The EU can publicly declare that it will not abide by U.S. secondary sanctions on Iran and that it will pursue its obligations in full under the JCPOA.  Short of this action, the EU will not be able to withstand U.S. pressure and any guarantees it may give Iran will be vacuous and largely meaningless.

Q:The 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 the EU offer Iran?

A:Again, any guarantee the EU can give Iran on the face of U.S. economic threats against Europe's major companies, banks, and other financial institutions will amount to no more throwing Iran some breadcrumbs.  Such moves will not allow Iran to gain meaningful economic benefits under the JCPOA.