By Mohamamd Mazhari

Israel stumbling block of Iran-U.S. rapprochement: professor

February 4, 2022 - 20:50

TEHRAN - Shireen Tahmaasb Hunter, a professor of political science at Georgetown University, says that Israel and its supporters in the U.S. have played key roles in preventing rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran.

“Israel and its supporters in the U.S. have played key roles in preventing U.S.-Iran reconciliation,” Hunter tells the Tehran Times.

“They have even contributed to the worsening of these relations. For example in 1996 Israel's supporters played a key role in the passage of the Iran-Libya sanctions act,” she adds.

While the American officials are signaling that the Vienna talks are on the cusp of restoring point, there are still questions that cast a shadow on the possible agreement under unsolved problems between Tehran and Washington.

Tehran and Washington are at odds when it comes to regional policies in which Israel is the most prominent obstacle.

“Israel even played a key role in convincing President Trump to leave the JCPOA. In future, too, Israel will try to stop U.S.-Iran reconciliation,” Hunter asserts.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: Biden administration officials said on Monday the United States and its European allies appear on the cusp of restoring the Iran nuclear deal. Many were pessimistic about the Vienna talks. What is your take?

A: Being close to the agreement does not necessarily mean that agreement would be reached.  Judging by statements of both Iran’s and the 4+1 officials some difficult issues requiring difficult political issues remain. So the question is would the parties be able to make such difficult decisions? Let's hope that they will.

Q: What are the expected fruits of a revived nuclear deal for Iran, the region, and the world in its entirety?

A: The most important benefits for Iran are the following: the vast reduction in the risk of any military conflict with the U.S.; the elimination of any Israeli excuse for attacking Iran and; the infusion of much-needed financial resources into the Iranian economy.

At the regional level, the revival of the JCPOA is likely to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation by reassuring Iran's neighbors that Tehran is not moving towards making nuclear weapons. At the global level, too, the JCPOA's revival could help non-proliferation goals.

Q: What are the implications of reviving the Iran nuclear deal when it comes to the tense Iran-U.S. relationship? Can it be a prelude to improve relations or just a tactic to alleviate tensions? Apparently, they have a long road ahead.

A; The revival of the JCPOA will eliminate one source of tension in U.S.-Iran relations. However, there are other issues which prevent better relations between Washington and Tehran, especially the issue of Iran's regional policies, most notably its hostility towards Israel and support for groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. But perhaps the most significant barrier is Iran's unwillingness to talk directly to the U.S. Exchange of messages is not enough, especially that messengers might have their own interest in preventing Tehran-Washington reconciliation.

Q: What is the role of Israel in preventing any steps to break the ice between Iran and the U.S.?

A: Israel and its supporters in the U.S. have played key roles in preventing U.S.-Iran reconciliation. They have even contributed to the worsening of these relations. For example in 1996 Israel's supporters played a key role in the passage of the Iran-Libya sanctions act.

The same was true of later sanctions imposed on Iran. Israel even played a key role in convincing President Trump to leave the JCPOA. In the future, too, Israel will try to stop U.S.-Iran reconciliation. The only way to prevent such Israeli actions is for Iran: first to talk directly to the U.S. and second; to reduce its anti-Israel hostility and possibly reach some form of understanding, even if tacit.

Q: Some critics say a revival of the nuclear deal won't help Iran to reconstruct its economy given that there is no guarantee that the next U.S. administration will stay in the pact. They also say international companies would not dare to enter business dealings with Iran while there is a kind of uncertainty over fate of the JCPOA. What is your comment?

A: Iran's economic problems have many roots, and the sanctions, although very important, are not the only cause of these problems. However, the lack of capital since 2008 and especially, after the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA has been a major factor in Iran's economic downturn. The revival of the JCPOA will reduce this capital crunch. As for the unwillingness of companies to come to Iran, other factors, including cultural restrictions, also play a role.

Of course, the possibility that the U.S. might again leave the JCPOA also acts as a restraining factor. To solve this problem, the only way for Iran is to reach some form of compromise with the United States and end the four-decades-old estrangement. This does not mean having close relations with Washington.

Only non-hostile relations. Such reconciliation will also improve Iran's bargaining position vis a vis its neighbors and other regional players, and even toward Russia and China. All these countries have used U.S.-Iran estrangement and Iran's international isolation to take unfair advantage of Tehran.

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