By Mohammad Mazhari 

Policy of ‘maximum pressure’ has been ineffective: Fitzpatrick

June 8, 2021 - 12:27
“He (Trump) is viewed as both a traitor and a clown,” says associate fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies

TEHRAN - Mark Fitzpatrick, an associate fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), says that "strategy of continuing maximum pressure has been proven to be ineffective."

"I frankly do not pay much attention anymore to opponents of the JCPOA, who no longer are in power. They should be ignored because their preferred strategy of continuing maximum pressure has been proven to be ineffective," Fitzpatrick tells the Tehran Times.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump, in his few public appearances since leaving office, has called President Joe Biden's foreign policy "shameful and embarrassing", particularly his approach to Iran.

Before Biden took office, he announced his intention to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Trump had abandoned in May 2018. Trump called the Obama-era agreement a "disaster", abandoned it, and imposed hundreds of sanctions as part of his "maximum pressure" strategy against Iran.

However, many political pundits believe that Trump's policies ended in failure. 

"Although Trump himself retains support from a large segment of the Republican Party, to the rest of the country he is viewed as both a traitor and a clown. Without access to social media, his power is waning," the former executive director of the IISS-Americas office notes.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action showed the limitations of presidential authority in making deals. The absence of any Congressional endorsement on the agreement made it easy for Donald Trump to pull out of the deal. Don't you think the Vienna talks can offer a fundamental solution to revive the JCPOA, or is it only a temporary mechanism to avoid a clash?

A:  It is a misreading of U.S. politics to think that Congressional endorsement of the JCPOA would have prevented Trump from withdrawing from the deal.  Look at how he withdrew from Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) and Open Skies treaties, both of which had been ratified by Congress. And his former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, said Trump would have withdrawn from the JCPOA even if it had been a treaty (endorsed by Congress).  Of course, it would be ideal if the current talks in Vienna produce a deal that the Congress would support, but this is unlikely. Most Republican Senators would oppose any conceivable deal with Iran short of one that amounted to wholesale Iranian surrender.  I hope that the JCPOA can be restored quickly and that the parties can address other issues of concern in ways that will build support for rapprochement.

Q: What is your prediction of Israel's reaction after a possible revival of the JCPOA? Can America curb Israel?

A:  I do not think that any state can "curb" another when the latter sees an existential threat in the way that Israel regards the potential for a nuclear-armed Iran. Outgoing Prime Minister Netanyahu had indicated that Israel would go its own way regardless of what the U.S. negotiates with Iran. I expect that his successor will not be so cavalier about endangering the U.S.-Israel relationship. And note that during the time when the JCPOA was in full operation, Israel refrained from conducting any attacks. What would spark an Israeli attack would be clear evidence of an Iranian dash for nuclear weapons in violation of its NPT and JCPOA obligations. In this case, the U.S. might actually welcome Israeli action.

Q: What are the solutions suggested by critics and opponents of the JCPOA, especially Trump, who slams Biden? War or continuing sanctions? Do you think the policy of “maximum pressure” could change Iran’s policy?

A: I frankly do not pay much attention anymore to opponents of the JCPOA, who no longer are in power. They should be ignored because their preferred strategy of continuing maximum pressure has been proven to be ineffective. And although Trump himself retains support from a large segment of the Republican Party to the rest of the country, he is viewed as both a traitor and a clown. Without access to social media, his power is waning.

Q: Given Trump's performance when it comes to international treaties, how can Iran and the U.S. trust each other? Do they need a treaty like the "treaty of amity" to reconstruct their ties from scratch? 

A:  It will take time to establish trust between two states which each have such vivid memories of mistreatment by the other.  In the meantime, implementation of a restored JCPOA will be based on verification. I would not hold my breath waiting for a "Treaty of Amity", but I do hope Iran and the U.S. can talk about other issues of concern to each of them and find ways to mitigate the dangers and harm each perceives.

Q: What can we learn from the Trump administration's withdrawal from the nuclear deal and its repercussions, especially when Iran resumed to enrich uranium to a higher purity? Do you think Biden's successors may repeat Trump's experience? 

A: I hope Americans learn the lesson that Trump's withdrawal from the JCPOA was a disastrous strategy, not to be repeated. 

It produced nothing favorable for the United States; to the contrary, it only gave Iran an excuse to ramp up its nuclear program in ways that brought it closer to a nuclear weapons capability. 

Unfortunately, it seems that half of the U.S. body politic has not yet learned this lesson. The best way to prevent a repetition of Trump's decision would be to give Republican supporters an economic reason to support engagement with Iran. Ideally, the JCPOA should be complemented by a new agreement based on "more for more," under which the U.S. would remove its ban on direct trade with Iran in exchange for changes in Iranian policies of concern to the U.S.
 

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