Former U.S. officials: Exiting nuclear deal would have ‘grave’ consequences

August 9, 2017 - 16:58

TEHRAN - A group of former senior U.S. officials and prominent national security leaders issued a statement on Tuesday warning that withdrawing from the July 2015 nuclear agreement would have “grave” consequences for the United States.

Withdrawing from the nuclear agreement “would have grave long term political and security consequences for the United States”, read part the statement published by The National Interest magazine.

“No American national security objective would be served by withdrawing from it as long as Iran is meeting the agreement’s requirements,” the statement said.

“A U.S. decision to renew sanctions in the absence of evidence of Iranian noncompliance would damage American leadership, raise the likelihood of legal disputes with European companies, banks and governments, and potentially directly challenge the power of the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. dollar as global reserve currency,” it added. 

“Backing away from the JCPOA would also damage U.S. credibility as a partner in future diplomatic negotiations including with North Korea.”

Reports indicate that President Donald Trump may refuse to certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA in October, which could lead to restoring sanctions against Iran that were suspended in 2015 in accordance with the agreement. Doing so would bring the United States—rather than Iran—into noncompliance with the agreement.

Iran, the European Union, Germany and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia - finalized the text of the nuclear agreement on July 14, 2015. The deal went into effect in January 2016.

The UN Security Council turned the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), into international law by endorsing a resolution on July 20, 2015.

Under the agreement Iran is tasked to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for termination of financial and economic sanctions.

The U.S. administration said in April it was launching an inter-agency review of whether the lifting of sanctions against Iran was in Washington’s national security interests.

Under U.S. law, the State Department must notify Congress every 90 days of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA.

The statement further urged the establishment of a regular channel of communication at a senior level with Iran that would enable the U.S. to express its concerns directly to Iran’s leaders about Iranian actions, provide a channel to resolve conflicts before they escalate, and explore opportunities for working in parallel with Iran on problems that impact U.S. security interests such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Back in January, dozens of American top scientists, wrote to Trump to urge him not to dismantle the Iran deal, hailing it as a “strategic asset.”

“We urge you to preserve this critical U.S. strategic asset,” read the letter, signed by 37 signatories including Nobel laureates, veteran makers of nuclear arms, former White House science advisers and the chief executive of the world’s largest general society of scientists.

Last month, the president — after a long, drawn-out battle with his top national security officials — reluctantly agreed to certify the deal for the next three months. But according to a recent report in Foreign Policy, the president has assembled a special team of White House aides whose sole task is to figure out a way to claim that Iran is violating the deal. That way he can say it was Iran’s fault the deal fell apart, not his.

During his presidential campaign, Trump called the accord “the worst deal ever negotiated.” In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, he declared that his “No. 1 priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal” and argued that Tehran had outmaneuvered Washington in winning concessions and could still develop nuclear arms when the pact’s restrictions expire in 15 years.

He has kept the hard line over the past months.

Trump’s claims lack supporting evidence. Experts, including the International Atomic Energy (IAEA) — the nuclear watchdog agency in charge of verifying Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the deal — says that Iran is in compliance.

The IAEA, which is tasked to monitor Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA, has confirmed six times so far that Iran has honored its commitments.

Iran has warned it would not keep mum of any substantial incompliance by Washington, saying the Trump administration has already violated the multilateral accord. 

In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in July, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that “the United States has failed to implement its part of the bargain,” citing the fact that Trump had “used his presence in Hamburg during the G20 meeting in order to dissuade leaders from other countries to engage in business with Iran.”

Paragraph 26 of the nuclear deal demands the U.S. to make best efforts in good faith to sustain it and to prevent interference with the realization of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who has hailed the deal as his signature foreign policy achievement, has been vocally critical of Trump’s rhetoric.

At his swearing-in ceremony on August 5, Rouhani said: “Those who want to tear up the nuclear deal should know that they will be ripping up their own political life.”

The agreement remains, theoretically, even if the U.S. pulls out, with the five other signatories, Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain, all saying that they would continue with it. But companies and financial institutions are acutely wary of falling foul of U.S. sanctions and incurring immense financial penalties.

“I don’t see how the agreement can really survive if the U.S. really does say it is no longer part of it” was the view of Professor Mohammad Marandi, a Tehran University academic influential in Iranian government circles. "The odds will be stacked against it”. While Robert Emerson, a security analyst, said: “This is not something which is going to go away from Washington politics; the issue of the nuclear deal and Iran sanctions will be revisited many times in the future by the hardliners led by the U.S. president”.


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