By Javad Heirannia

European countries can save JCPOA: professor

May 22, 2018

TEHRAN - Farhang Jahanpour, an adjunct professor in the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Oxford and a Middle East expert, says that “President Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA was opposed virtually by the entire world, with the exception of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

“I believe that Iran’s best option would be to stay in the deal and to persuade other signatories to the deal to honour their commitments. It seems that there is a momentum for other countries staying in the deal,” Jahanpour tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.

Jahanpour, also a former senior research fellow at Harvard University, says that “It seems that a combination of legal, financial and political steps by European countries could allow them to extend Iran the benefits of the deal.”

Following is the full text of the interview with Professor Farhang Jahanpour:

Q: President Trump has withdrawn the United States from the JCPOA. How serious a blow is this to the nuclear deal?

A: In a way, Iran should be grateful to President Trump for having adopted such a clear stance regarding the JCPOA. He had three options, back the deal, stay in it but create uncertainty about its future, or withdraw from it. The first option would have been desired by all. The second option would have been the worst option for Iran, because it would have deprived Iran of enjoying the benefits of the deal, while the U.S. would not have officially reneged on it. By a clear withdrawal from the deal, he has done Iran a great favour, because it has practically united the whole world in support of the deal, especially as he has decided to impose secondary sanctions on other countries that trade with Iran.

President Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA was opposed virtually by the entire world, with the exception of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The French president, the German chancellor, and the British foreign minister travelled to Washington to persuade President Trump not to withdraw from the deal. More than 500 French, British and German parliamentarians in a letter expressed their strong support for the deal. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres strongly supported the deal.
Domestically, U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis said that Iran had been abiding by the agreement. The former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had been a supporter of the deal. Even the new hard-line Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his Senate hearing admitted that Iran had not violated the deal. Many officials in the U.S. national security establishment, and the vast majority of nuclear scientists and policy experts have also supported the deal. It is remarkable that despite extensive hostile propaganda, according to a recent poll the majority of Americans also support the deal.

Q: What are President Trump’s main objections to the deal?

A: In the statement that he made while rescinding the agreement, he made a number of charges, which upon close examination seem very weak, and indeed mainly incorrect.
He accused Iran of having violated the deal, while the IAEA that is in charge of monitoring the deal has, on eleven separate occasions, certified that Iran has fully complied with the terms of the deal.
He said that IAEA inspectors were barred from visiting some sites. This is not true, because the IAEA has the right to inspect any suspicious sites, and has done so on many occasions.
He said that the so-called "sunset clauses" meant that Iran could rush to make a bomb after they expire. This is not true. Iran has been a member of the NPT and has also joined the "Additional Protocol", which requires continuous, unannounced inspections of all her nuclear sites, and she has also given an undertaking never to produce nuclear weapons. The prohibitions do not stop at the end of the "sunset clauses", but as an NPT member Iran is allowed to have a nuclear program for peaceful purposes, including the full range of enrichment cycle.
President Trump accused Iran of building intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Iran does not have intercontinental ballistic missiles as it has limited the range of her missiles to 2,000 kilometres. They are not designed to carry nuclear weapons, and in any case Iran does not have nuclear warheads.
He said that Iran was spreading terrorism in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, etc. Iran has been fighting against ISIS and other terrorists in Iraq and Syria at the invitation of the governments of those countries. All experts agree that the mantra of “Iran-backed Houthis” is exaggerated propaganda, as Iran’s contacts with the Houthis and influence over them is minimal. It is Saudi Arabia and members of her coalition who, with American support, have been bombing Yemen, killing and wounding tens of thousands of innocent people and creating the world’s greatest humanitarian catastrophe there.
He accused Iran of supporting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Iran was fighting against them and helped the United States to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia and the UAE were the two countries that helped create the Taliban and were the only countries in the region to recognize it, apart from Pakistan.
So, most of his objections to the JCPOA are spurious.

Q: What are the consequences of U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA, and how does it affect other signatories to the deal?

A: The JCPOA was not a unilateral deal between the United States and Iran, and the whole deal does not collapse due to U.S. withdrawal, so long as other signatories to the deal continue to honour their commitments. Those who drew up the JCPOA did a very good job to give it international backing. It received the unanimous endorsement of the UN Security Council with Resolution 2231, which has given it the force of international law, and therefore its violation is a violation of international law. It also received the unanimous support of the IAEA's board of governors, and the endorsement of the European Union.
Therefore, U.S. withdrawal puts heavy responsibilities on the shoulders of other signatories. According to the EU, as well as Russia and China, adherence to the deal is not just an issue of economic benefit, but they maintain that it is the most comprehensive non-proliferation agreement whose repudiation can have a very negative effect on other similar cases.
The withdrawal from the deal has been a slap in the face for European leaders who came to Washington to persuade Trump not to withdraw from the deal. It undermines international law and replaces it with the law of the jungle at a critical time in world history, when the role played by international organizations, such as the Security Council and the IAEA, is more crucial than ever before.

Q: Will other countries dare oppose the United States?

A: In addition to strong statements by Russia and China about their adherence to the deal, we have seen an unprecedented rift developing between the United States and her closest European allies. The British, German and French leaders issued a joint statement saying that they would honour the deal. After meeting with Foreign Minister Zarif, the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini said that EU trade with Iran would continue to grow. She announced a nine-point plan to ensure the continuation of Iran’s oil and gas sales and access to international finance. She said the work would cover:

The continued sale of Iran’s oil and gas products effective banking transactions with Iran continued sea, land, air and rail transportation relations new EU investments in Iran financial banking, insurance and trade a blocking mechanism aimed at nullifying U.S. sanctions on EU firms EU President Donald Tusk condemned the Trump administration in the harshest terms, and said that Washington could no longer be relied upon. At the start of an EU summit in Bulgaria, he offered a withering condemnation of Trump’s White House. He said: “We are witnessing today a new phenomenon: the capricious assertiveness of the American administration. Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, some could even think, ‘With friends like that, who needs enemies?’” He continued: “I have no doubt that in the new global game, Europe will either be one of the major players, or a pawn.” He added: “The deal is good for European and global security, which is why we must maintain it.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “As the European Commission, we have the duty to protect European companies. We now need to act and this is why we are launching the process to activate the ‘blocking statute’ from 1996.”

This degree of blunt criticism of the U.S. decision is unprecedented and very damaging for U.S.-EU relations.

Q: How should Iran respond to U.S. withdrawal from the deal and what should be Iran’s redlines?

A: I believe that Iran’s best option would be to stay in the deal and to persuade other signatories to the deal to honour their commitments. It seems that there is a momentum for other countries staying in the deal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with President Putin and both leaders stressed the importance of continuing with the deal. The French president said that Europe would attempt to protect companies from U.S. sanctions. It seems that a combination of legal, financial and political steps by European countries could allow them to extend Iran the benefits of the deal.
Iran signed the deal to prove to the world that she was not trying to acquire nuclear weapons in return for economic benefits. So far, crippling UN sanctions have been lifted, Iranian oil sales have reached the pre-sanctions levels, and Iran has resumed economic contacts with the rest of the world. So long as Iran enjoys these benefits, there will be no reason for her to leave the deal. Meanwhile, she should try to strengthen relations with allies and reduce causes of friction with her opponents. A clear declaration of peaceful policies by Iran would reassure the rest of the world to remain in the deal.
 

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