By Javad Heirannia

Reimposing sanctions on Iran is not in U.S. national interests: ex-senior CIA official

November 10, 2018 - 9:50

TEHRAN – Professor Paul Pillar, who was CIA intelligence analyst for 28 years, tells the Tehran Times that obviously with the U.S. administration reneging on the JCPOA, Iran is not getting much of the economic benefit it expected when it negotiated the agreement.  

Pillar also says, reimposing sanctions on Iran “is not in U.S. national interests in either the short or the long term.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: As announced before, U.S. returned all nuclear sanctions against Iran. Do you think that this sanctions is according to U.S. national interest in long term?

A: No, it is not in U.S. national interests in either the short or the long term.  The sanctions served the intended purpose of helping to induce Iran to subject itself to the restrictions in the JCPOA, which closed all possible paths to an Iranian nuclear weapon.  It is in U.S. interests to keep those paths closed.  The Trump administration's renunciation of the JCPOA and reimposition of sanctions has served only to increase tensions with Iran, antagonize and alienate U.S. allies in Europe, and set back the cause of nuclear nonproliferation.  If the administration succeeds in destroying the JCPOA altogether, it would mean the end of the special restrictions on Iran's nuclear program, which would bring Iran back closer to the capability of producing a nuclear weapon.  That would be in nobody's interests.  

Q: U.S. exempt 8 countries temporary from importing of Iran’s oil. Do you think these countries can replace another resources instead of oil of Iran?

A: Probably even the Trump administration doesn't know the answer to that question, although the administration says it expects those countries to stop purchasing Iranian oil altogether after a short transition period.  What those countries eventually do will be a question of politics--and how much they want to cooperate with the U.S. effort to kill the JCPOA--as well as economics and the state of the oil market.  It would not be surprising if with some of these countries, the interim period proves to be quite flexible in length.  

Q: The Head of the US Treasury Steven Mnuchin has announced that Washington wants the world-wide payment network to cut off its services to the entities that were affected by Iran sanctions and warned that otherwise SWIFT might be sanctioned as well. Can U.S. do it?

A: The United States still wields enormous clout in the international financial system.  It can use its leverage to get its way on many things where it does not supposedly have the authority to decide things itself.  That is the power that flows from having one's own currency used as the principal reserve currency worldwide.  There is a longer term risk, to the United States.  The more it uses its financial leverage unilaterally to coerce other states, the more incentive others states have to respond in ways that reduce that leverage in the future.  The announced effort by the European signatories of the JCPOA to devise a special purpose vehicle for continuing commerce with Iran, out of the reach of the United States, is one such move. 

Q: If Iran cannot export oil and cannot work by SWIFT, what means JCPOA for it? I mean if U.S. can impose their will on these two key issues for Iran, is it rational for Iran stay in JCPOA? What is the EU and Russia and China in this regard?

A: Obviously with the U.S. administration reneging on the JCPOA, Iran is not getting much of the economic benefit it expected when it negotiated the agreement.  The fact that Iran so far has nonetheless has continued to observe its obligations under the agreement reflects, however, the judgment of Iranian leaders--and I would agree with that judgment--that it still is in Iran's interest to stick with the agreement.  The accompanying hope is that there will be a new U.S. president after 2020 who will bring the United States back into compliance with the JCPOA.  I would urge Iranian leaders to stick with the agreement despite the fundamental unfairness of one side reneging on a bargain while the other side lives up to it.  Iran would have little to gain by accelerating its nuclear program in ways that would violate the JCPOA limits.  And it still is not in Iran's interest to try to acquire nuclear weapons.

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