By Mohammad Mazhari

U.S. doesn’t intend to fully honor its JCPOA obligations: professor

December 11, 2021 - 15:0

TEHRAN - Nader Entessar, a retired professor of political science from the University of South Alabama, says that the West, especially the U.S., does not intend to honor its commitments under the JCPOA, the official name for the 2015 nuclear deal.

“It is very clear that the West, especially the U.S., does not intend to fully honor its JCPOA obligations and Iran insists that all parties (and not just Iran) go back to what Iran and the so-called 5+1 agreed in 2015,” Entessar tells the Tehran Times.  

He says, “Iran has always viewed the JCPOA as a legally binding agreement whereas the West has viewed it as a political stepping stool to extract non-nuclear concessions from Iran in regional issues and to ultimately degrade Iran's defense and deterrent capabilities.”

Entessar believes a diametrically opposed perception of struggling sides hampers reaching a deal.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: Are you optimistic about the new rounds of talks to revive the JCPOA? Do you think rigidity in positions is a prelude to a new deal?

A: Based on publicly available information, I am not very optimistic about the outcome of the Vienna negotiations.  It is very clear that the West, especially the U.S., does not intend to fully honor its JCPOA obligations and Iran insists that all parties (and not just Iran) go back to what Iran and the so-called 5+1 agreed in 2015.  
Iran has always viewed the JCPOA as a legally binding agreement whereas the West has viewed it as a political stepping stool to extract non-nuclear concessions from Iran in regional issues and to ultimately degrade Iran's defense and deterrent capabilities.  This diametrically opposed perception of each side has been a daunting obstacle from the very first day the nuclear agreement was signed.  

Benefits of the JCPOA are temporary, not sustainable, because U.S. and the West control all important levers under the 2015 nuclear agreement. Q: Many critics blame the current U.S. administration for procrastination. What is your comment?

A: I think the main problem was with Iran's misreading of the intentions of the Biden administration.  When Biden criticized Donald Trump for withdrawing from the nuclear deal, some people in Iran assumed that Biden would return to the JCPOA and would issue executive orders to remove Trump-era imposed sanctions on Iran. I recall that some in the Rouhani administration stated that Biden can remove most of the Trump-imposed sanctions in "three days." This was a gross misreading of Biden's intentions and was reflective of Iran's naiveté about the new Democratic administration in Washington.  

Neither Biden nor anybody in his administration's foreign policy circles ever promised to return to the JCPOA unconditionally.  What Biden always stressed both as a presidential candidate and later when he was elected was that he was in favor of returning to the JCPOA so that the U.S. can revise the nuclear agreement and conclude a "better deal" with Iran.  

Q: Some observers say the JCPOA can never meet Iran's demands for a good economic advantage because no one in the West, including America, is ready to invest in Iran after Trump abandoned the pact. There is no guarantee that the next U.S. administration will not pull out of any possible deal with Iran and reimpose the sanctions, so there is no security to invest. What is your comment?

A: Yes, I agree with this assessment.  The JCPOA can under the best circumstances provide Iran with some economic benefits, but the economic benefits of the JCPOA are temporary and are not sustainable because the U.S. and the West control all the important levers under the 2015 nuclear agreement.  As you correctly stated, there is no guarantee the next U.S. administration, or even the current one, will stay in the JCPOA.  
This inherent and built-in uncertainty will remain a major obstacle for major Western foreign investments in Iran.  As long as the Iran-U.S. relations remain acrimonious, there is no easy solution to this dilemma.  As I have stated on many occasions, the USA-Iran conflict cannot be resolved through legal mechanisms because this is a political conflict that has festered since 1979.
 
Q: Apparently the Iranians and the Americans cannot understand each other’s logic. The Iranian side is talking about guarantees and ways of compensation for economic loss the Trump administration caused while the Americans expect a rapid return to the pact by Iran without any guarantee not to breach it again. Is there any ground on which both sides can find a common language?

A: As long as the U.S. insists on an agreement that Washington can breach without penalty, it is very difficult for the two sides to come to a sustainable and long-term workable solution.  One way, albeit not an ideal one, for finding a middle ground would be to establish an internationally administered escrow account with enough funds in it to compensate, or partially compensate, Iran in the event of a future U.S. withdrawal from the agreement.

I recognize that the mechanism for establishing such an account and administering is daunting.  Such escrow accounts normally do not work the way they are supposed to function, and the West, especially the U.S., will still wield more influence over its functions than Iran will.  

Q: The U.S. is fighting on three fronts: Iran, Russia, and China. Is it reasonable to confront all of them at the same time?

A: The U.S. confrontation with Iran is somewhat different from Washington's conflict with China and Russia.  In Iran's case, the U.S. has been able to sustain a relentless economic, strategic, and political war for the past four decades.  Russia and China present a different type of challenge to the U.S.  Both of these two countries, especially China, have access to a variety of countervailing forces that have deterred Washington from maintaining a sustained reckless confrontational policy towards them without paying an unacceptable price.

With respect to Iran, the Washington establishment, either of the neocon or the neoliberal variety, continues to operate on the assumption that the cost of maintaining a sustained level of conflict with Iran will remain acceptable and ultimately lead to Iran's capitulation to U.S. demands.  This is somewhat similar to the two-and-a-half-war doctrine that the U.S. devised during the Cold War.

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