Ex-British envoy: Quitting JCPOA harmed U.S. reputation as reliable ally

June 7, 2021 - 13:13

TEHRAN - A former British ambassador to the United States says the Joe Biden administration is aware that abrogating the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – JCPOA - as well as other unilateral measures by former U.S. President Donald Trump have harmed Washington’s reputation as a reliable ally.

“What Biden and many of the other members of his team will have been hearing from those countries who they are trying to persuade to do this or that is, ‘How can we take America’s word for it? Look what happened to the Iran nuclear deal: it got torn up by the next president.’” said Sir Peter Westmacott, according to Press TV.

“‘What happens if there’s another Trump or a Trump clone in the White House in four years’ time? What’s the point of reaching an agreement with you guys at this stage when it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on?’ So I think they are conscious that harm has been done to America’s reputation as a reliable ally,” Westmacott warned

Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018, against a background of worldwide disapproval, with the aim of putting enormous pressure on Tehran through sanctions.

The JCPOA was signed at the time of the administration of Barack Obama, when Biden was vice president. Biden and other Democrats also slammed Trump’s withdrawal. When campaigning for president, Biden promised to rejoin the JCPOA and repeal Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure” policy on Tehran.

Multilateral talks began two months ago in Vienna to revive the JCPOA by returning the U.S. to all of its contractual commitments, including the lifting of sanctions, followed by Iran’s reversal of its nuclear activities beyond the JCPOA limits.

Trump also withdrew from other multilateral agreements during his four years of presidency. The Paris agreement was one of them. Overall, his policy harmed the United States’ relations with its traditional European allies.

“There’s no question that trust in the United States was badly impacted by the Trump administration in the way he handled our alliances,” Leon Panetta, a former U.S. defense secretary and CIA director, said.

Panetta noted that Biden must heal the damage done.

“He can, but he’s probably dealing with allies that are trying to figure out whether this is just another passing phase in the United States’ foreign policy or something more permanent.”

Biden will make his first overseas trip as the president of the United States this week, seeking to regain some lost confidence in the U.S. around the world.

May 12 (Washington Post) UK’s Peter Westmacott hopes Biden will prioritize Iran nuclear accord

Westmacott says bigger, more restrictive deal with Iran not realistic

In a report on May 12, the Washington Diplomat said Westmacott hopes Biden will prioritize the 2015 nuclear accord.

According to the Washington Diplomat, Westmacott said the original deal “wasn’t what we set out to do because it wasn’t realistic.”

Westmacott added that he’s very skeptical of a “bigger and better deal,” as some on Capitol Hill are pushing for.

“Yes we should extend the timeline, but most people want to include the Iranian missile program. I understand the logic of that, but the missile program is essential to their defense and their ability to project power against the Israelis. I just don’t see why the Iranians would give up missiles.”

“My sense is that trying to get a bigger, more restrictive deal on constraints [against] Iran first off is not realistic,” he said. “The reality is that on the Iranian side, there are quite a lot of people who feel that because the U.S. broke its word and walked away, it’s the U.S. who should be putting more bread on the table rather than asking Iran to give up more.”

Westmacott added, “Now diplomats in Vienna are looking very actively with genuine political will from both Tehran and the U.S. If the deal can be put back together again, there could be further negotiations on other issues. There are 150 members of the House of Representatives who have asked the Biden administration to give priority to this deal. That’s a significant message to the administration, and I’m personally very pleased.”

One wild card remains Israel, whose right-wing government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims Iran is an existential threat.

Westmacott recalled that when he was ambassador in Washington, “we had daily calls coming in from Netanyahu saying this is a terrible deal.”

Yet Netanyahu himself is in serious trouble now. Facing a corruption trial and failure to form a government amid strong opposition from the left and right, “Bibi”—as he’s known informally—may find himself out of power for the first time in 12 years.

“Netanyahu has been the most outspoken opponent of the JCPOA. He even took the step of addressing Congress without asking the president’s approval,” said Westmacott.

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