‘Foolish’ Trump should not be allowed to sink nuclear deal: ex-White House official

December 18, 2017 - 8:36

Frank Von Hippel, the former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has called the 2015 nuclear deal a “very constructive agreement”.

“The JCPOA is a very constructive agreement upon which we could build a stronger nonproliferation regime. We should not allow one foolish leader to destroy that potential,” he said in an interview with IRNA published on Saturday.

Following is full text of the interview:

Q: The EU considers the JCPOA as part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. How does President Trump's effort to undermine the nuclear agreement would affect the future of this treaty?

A: Even if President Trump takes the U.S. out of the JCPOA, I hope the other parties, including Iran, will preserve it.
I know that some will call for Iran to leave the deal because the benefits for Iran in sanctions relief would be much reduced. But the JCPOA is a very constructive agreement upon which we could build a stronger nonproliferation regime. We should not allow one foolish leader to destroy that potential. In three more years – or perhaps less if President Trump is impeached--I hope that the U.S. will have a more constructive government.

Q: While the U.S. questions the Iranian ballistic missile program, it sells billions of dollars of advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf governments. How would you explain the U.S. approach to Iran's missile program? 

A: Pouring weapons into the Middle East is not the answer. We see the result in Yemen. I think that the self-restraint of Iran in limiting the range of its ballistic missile tests is very wise and I hope we can build on that decision. 

Q: Don't you think that the U.S. policy is encouraging an arms race in the region?

A: Yes. President Trump is emphasizing selling weapons. It's a throwback to the “merchants of death.”

Q: President Trump has announced his intention to modernize U.S. nuclear capability vis-a-vis China and Russia. Why do you think that President Trump is adopting this policy? 

A: This is something that President Obama gave the Republicans in exchange for their willingness to ratify the New START Treaty. It was a mistake. We don’t need all those weapons.

Q: Do you think that the world may witness another Star War or nuclear arms race similar to what happened during the Cold War between the U.S. and the USSR?

A: I am quite worried about the damage that the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense buildup against North Korea is doing to the future possibilities of capping China’s buildup of offensive nuclear missiles and of negotiating further reductions with Russia.

Q: Many countries in the Middle East as well as the NAM countries have expressed their concern with the Israeli nuclear program. How do you see Israel's rejection of the NPT and the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East?

A: I don’t think there is hope for a constructive Israeli foreign policy as long as [Benjamin] Netanyahu is Prime Minister. We certainly can’t wait for that to work on the problems between the countries around the Persian Gulf.

Q: Saudi Arabia says that it will start its nuclear program in near future. Given the belligerent policies of Saudi Arabia in the region, how do you see a potential Saudi nuclear program and its possible impact on the region?

A: I think that you mean a Saudi nuclear energy program. As long as they don’t enrich or reprocess, I think we can live with it. As Iran has recognized, there is no good reason to reprocess. We do need to enrich but I hope that in the future we can do away with national enrichment programs in favor of multinational programs like URENCO. Today, the only enrichment plants in two nuclear-weapon states: the United States and United Kingdom, are owned by the multinational URENCO.

The URENCO Group is a nuclear fuel company operating several uranium enrichment plants in Germany, the Netherlands, United States, and United Kingdom.

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