By Mohammad Mazhari

Trump failed to achieve his Iran goals: Fitzpatrick

November 18, 2020 - 11:44

TEHRAN – Mark Fitzpatrick, an associate fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), says Donald Trump achieved “none of his goals” by quitting the 2015 nuclear deal, noting that Trump “only made the situation more dangerous.”

In an interview with the Tehran Times, Fitzpatrick says pulling out of the JCPOA, the official name for the nuclear deal, was one of Trump’s “worst mistakes”.

According to Fitzpatrick, the former head of the Nonprolific & Nuclear Policy Program, Trump is trying to make Joe Biden unable to revive the nuclear pact now that he has failed to secure a second presidential term.

“Even after his electoral defeat, he is trying to prevent his successor from being able to restore the agreement,” Fitzpatrick points out.

“Arab countries opposed it (JCPOA) not because of concerns about Iran’s nuclear program but because the deal granted Iran international legitimacy, which Arab states saw as making them relatively weaker.”The following is the text of the interview:

Q: How do you assess Trump’s policies over the last four years, especially his withdrawal from international deals, including the JCPOA? 

A:  Trump will go down in history as one of America’s worst presidents ever, both for his inept management of the pandemic and for his disastrous foreign policy. 

His instincts were not all bad. On the positive side, he stood up to China, kept the U.S. out of foreign wars, reduced tensions in northeast Asia by engaging directly with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But the list of negatives is longer and more consequential. 

His withdrawal from mutually beneficial treaties and organizations undermined the global government and America’s leadership and credibility.  He antagonized U.S. democratic allies and looked up to foreign despots.  His rejection of the Paris Climate Accord and his denial of climate change science and facts was his worst mistake. Withdrawing from the JCPOA, which was working fine, was his second-worst blunder. Achieving none of his goals for Iran, he only made the situation more dangerous. Even after his electoral defeat, he is trying to prevent his successor from being able to restore the agreement.

Q: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has set certain conditions for a U.S. return to the nuclear deal. One of the conditions is that the U.S. should compensate for the losses caused by the sanctions imposed during the Trump presidency. What is your comment?

A:  It is politically impossible for any U.S. leader, Democratic or Republican, to meet the demand for compensation, which is not required under the JCPOA. Nobody in Washington is talking about compensating Iran.  It will not happen.  If Iranian political dynamics require some kind of compensation, then I encourage policymakers to be creative in what they consider to be compensation. 

"His (Trump) withdrawal from mutually beneficial treaties and organizations undermined the global government and America’s leadership and credibility."  For example, the Biden Administration should be able to support Iran’s request for a $5 billion IMF loan from the IMF. 
Americans would not call this “compensation,” but if Iranians want to call it “compensation,” then fine.

Q: Regardless of who will be the next president, if the United States decides to join the nuclear deal, would you think that the negotiations will be easy this time? 

A: If the two sides want to return to the JCPOA as it was, without additional conditions, then the negotiations should be relatively straightforward. As a technical matter, it would not be difficult for Iran to return to the nuclear limits of the JCPOA and for the United States to return to granting all the sanctions relief called for in the deal. There are two difficulties. One is how to address the advances that Iran has made in uranium enrichment research and development the past year since the knowledge gained by exceeding the R&D limits cannot be reversed.  Another difficulty concern sanctions that Trump newly applied, which were not covered under the JCPOA and which, in some cases, are not nuclear-related.  As for the second part of the question, many U.S. experts believe that the timelines in the deal will need to be extended.  Another alternative is to extend the limits via a follow-up negotiation after the JCPOA is restored.

Q: How can the Unites States give guarantees that it will not pull out of a possible nuclear deal again? 

A:  The best guarantee would be if any renegotiated deal has bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress and is ratified by a 2/3rds vote of the Senate. I find it hard to imagine what kind of deal would be acceptable to skeptics in both Iran and the United States.  Iran therefore, should not insist on such a guarantee.  The best way is to structure a deal so that both parties continue into the future to receive benefits. If politics operate logically, then self-interest should guarantee neither side will pull out. Unfortunately, Trump saw self-interest as what was good for himself personally, not what was good for the country.

Q: Do you think the nuclear deal was a catastrophe as Trump described it? Why some Arab countries oppose the deal? 

A: Far from being a catastrophe, the 2015 nuclear deal was beneficial for all parties involved. It was not perfect, of course, but it was the best deal that could be negotiated at the time.  Arab countries opposed it not because of concerns about Iran’s nuclear program but because the deal granted Iran international legitimacy, which Arab states saw as making them relatively weaker.

Q: Are there meaningful differences between Democrats and Republicans when they negotiate with Iran?  
A:  Of course! 
There is a huge difference. Democrats almost all supported the JCPOA; Republicans almost all opposed it. Democrats prioritize peaceful solutions reached through multilateral diplomacy; Republicans generally seek regime change for Iran.



***** H 
 

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