Iran’s missiles should be non-negotiable: GWU professor

January 20, 2021 - 10:40

TEHRAN – A professor from the George Washington University suggests that Iran should not compromise on its defensive missile program in case the Biden administration is willing to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Iran’s missiles should be non-negotiable,” Hossein Askari tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.

Professor Askari cites certain reasons why Iran should not forego its rights to defensive missile program.

“Iran is surrounded by adversaries, including the United States, who are much better armed with missiles, sophisticated planes and warheads and even nuclear warheads. And these countries have a history of attacking others, something that Iran has not done for centuries,” Askari notes.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: Is the Biden administration sincere in wanting to rejoin the JCPOA?

A: Yes, but with a big word of caution because of what Trump and pro-Israeli lobbyists have done. The Biden team will make unreasonable demands that Iran will undoubtedly have to reject out of hand. Let me say that there will not be a quick return to the JCPOA as we knew it, something that I believe you will see as we discuss the issues further.

Q: What will the new conditions on Iran be?

A: The most serious will be conditions and limitations on Iran’s defensive missile program that the U.S. and Europeans will claim are for offensive purposes. They are likely to demand both a range limit of less than 1,000 kilometers and a limitation on the number of Iranian missiles along with intrusive inspections. They will want to lengthen the sunset clause in the agreement. They will demand that Iran forfeit its more highly enriched uranium. They will accuse Iran of interfering in other countries and demand that it restrict its aid to its regional allies. And for public consumption, they will demand improvements in human and political rights. 

Q: How should Iran respond?

A: Let me address these in reverse order. The United States supports and arms a number of states that have worse human and political rights records than any other states in the region. Israel’s abuse of its Arab population is known to all and this is why it is seen negatively by so much of the world—illegal occupation of Arab lands without compensation, harsh policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza and treatment of Palestinians that is akin to apartheid as we saw in South Africa. The West, and especially the United States, supports Saudi Arabia, a country with possibly the worst human and political rights record in the world and currently engaged in war crimes against the Houthis, supported by U.S. arms and intelligence. And whenever America has a problem it labels the other side a terrorist organization or a state sponsor of terror as Pompeo has done with the Houthis and with Cuba in the waning days of Trump. So if they bring up human rights Iran should answer with these and also ask about discrimination and racism in the United States and the homegrown and nurtured terrorists in the United States who are now spreading their vitriol and hate to Europe and beyond. 

“The Biden team will make unreasonable demands that Iran will undoubtedly have to reject out of hand.”As for Iran’s interference in other countries, Iran should be ready with the details of America’s record of interference in other countries—support for dictators, coups and attempted coups, and the number of bases, military hardware and soldiers in the region. Iran should detail the covert operations and assassinations carried out by the U.S. and Israel. The U.S. does all of this to Iran and to the Middle East (West Asia) thousands of kilometers from its borders. So who is interfering in the region? And on top of this what about America’s surrogates—Israel and Saudi Arabia—that interfere widely? Reciprocity is the key.

Sure, Iran should give up its highly enriched uranium IF the West also meets Iran’s demands to get back into compliance.

Lengthening the sunset clause is essentially asking for a new agreement and cannot be dealt with in the context of the JCPOA as we know it.

Finally, missiles should be non-negotiable.  Iran is surrounded by adversaries, including the United States, who are much better armed with missiles, sophisticated planes and warheads and even nuclear warheads. And these countries have a history of attacking others, something that Iran has not done for centuries. Iran cannot go along with blind trust and international law as it did with the JCPOA. If the West wants to include missiles, Iran should say we need a new agreement that is also ratified by the U.S. Senate to be elevated to the level of a treaty. There is little trust for the United States in Iran. The issue of missiles along with a change in the sunset clause can only be a part of a new agreement.

Q: What should Iran’s conditions be?

“For Iran to be back in compliance with the JCPOA, Iran should ask in return for the following. First, the simultaneous lifting of all sanctions. Second, appropriate compensation for economic and human damage caused by U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA. And third, the ratification of the JCPOA by the U.S. Senate in order for it to be elevated to the level of a treaty.”A: For Iran to be back in compliance with the JCPOA, Iran should ask in return for the following. First, the simultaneous lifting of all sanctions. Second, appropriate compensation for economic and human damage caused by U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA. And third, the ratification of the JCPOA by the U.S. Senate in order for it to be elevated to the level of a treaty. It is critical that Iran argue for damages to be paid by the United States. The U.S. cannot just withdraw from an agreement also endorsed by the UN Security Council, cause catastrophic damages on Iran and on the Iranian people and then rejoin as if nothing had happened! This is not how agreements and unilaterally breaking them work. And Iran can no longer rely on an agreement accepted by a U.S. president. Iran needs more assurance. Trust is in short supply. It must be ratified by the Senate.

In response to other demands that the U.S. is likely to make, Iran must be firm. Everything is on the table as long as there is acceptable reciprocity. Yes, eliminate all missiles as long as all nations in the region do the same, the U.S. withdraws all its forces, and most important, Israel destroys all its nuclear warheads. Let me elaborate on this last point. The only sensible future for the region is to make it a nuclear-free zone. The world be urgently made aware of this. Iran must publicize this every day. Every country in the region has been willing to accept this, except one country, Israel. So why does Israel need nuclear warheads? For the life of me, I don’t know. Israel has the support and the guarantee of the U.S. for defense in case of war. Does Israel not trust the U.S? Moreover, what is Israel also saying, if attacked they will destroy the whole region and much of the world with nuclear arms? Hopefully, Israel is not such a country. Or is Israel saying that it can assassinate people around the world with impunity because it has nuclear arms? None of these reasons for having over 200 nuclear warheads make sense in the long run for Israel or for the region. Israel is dwarfed in size by its neighbors and Muslims around the world and the best path for going forward is to rid the region of all offensive weapons and of foreign presence, and to address Palestinian rights and live in peace as Jews, Muslims, Arabs, and Iranians have done in the past. 

For the longer run, Iran must work on its international image. While Israel may foolishly believe it has the luxury of neglecting how it is perceived around the world even in the face of despicable and rising anti-Semitism, Iran does not have this luxury now or in the future. For Iran, it does not receive favorable recognition because it is lambasted around the world by propaganda painting a false image of the country in the hearts and minds of much of the public in the West. It is time for Iran to develop a comprehensive plan and the tools to confront this head-on. The struggle in the world today is not on the battlefield alone.

Q: In the end is it not more productive to forget the JCPOA and develop a new agreement?

A: Yes, if the United States wants to introduce new elements or significant changes to the original JCPOA. You cannot look at one element in isolation. It is a package.

Q: Why is the West, in particular the United States, demonizing Iran and not Israel or Saudi Arabia?

A: I think I have more or less answered this. Iran must clean up its image in the West. This will take a few years. It needs a comprehensive plan and resources. But let me add that Saudi Arabia and other PGCC countries spend a great deal of money in the West for consulting-lobbying, they invest in the West and they purchase Western goods. This gives them a great vehicle to garner support. In the case of Israel, generally speaking, Western Jews donate money to politicians for their election campaigns. As politicians only care about their re-election, this translates to phenomenal raw power. You can see it everywhere in the United States. Sadly, Iranian Americans do not do the same for Iran and the people of Iran—again, I think that this can be improved if and when the perception of Iran improves in the West.


 

Comments

  • 2021-01-22 04:00
    So essentially Iran gained nothing in the first agreement but must enter into a new agreement with the hope that all parties will honor it the second time around. That’s absurd.

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