By Mohammad Mazhari

U.S. ‘maximum pressure’ policy has made nuclear deal revival difficult: ex-EU diplomat

February 3, 2022 - 2:6
Marc Otte says maximum pressure “obviously has been a failure” 

TEHRAN - The former European Union's Special Representative to the Middle East peace process says that Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy made the revival of the Iran nuclear deal difficult.

“It obviously has been a failure and made the revival of the pact more difficult, because of a loss of trust between the parties,” Marc Otte tells the Tehran Times.

 “It has been met with ‘maximum resistance’ from Iran, including acceleration of uranium enrichment by Tehran,” he adds.

Biden administration officials said on Monday that the United States and its European allies appear on the cusp of restoring the Iran nuclear deal.

All parties admitted that negotiations had reached a point where political leaders needed to decide whether they would agree to key elements of an accord that would essentially return to the 2015 deal that Trump discarded four years ago, over the objections of many of his key advisers.

Ultimately, that prompted Iran to resume its nuclear production and increase the level of its nuclear enrichment. 

Trump’s aggressive policies against Iran not only crippled the JCPOA under his presidency but made troubles for his successor and America’s Western allies to restore it smoothly later, the former European diplomat notes.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q:  How do you see the progress of talks in Vienna? 

A: It’s too slow. Impatience and worries are growing, including among Europeans. The fear of reaching a point of no return is present.  

“It (maximum pressure) has been met with ‘maximum resistance’ from Iran.”Q:   How do you evaluate the fallout of Trump's “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran? How did it affect the next steps to revive the pact? 

A: It obviously has been a failure and made the revival of the pact more difficult, because of a loss of trust between the parties. It has been met with “maximum resistance” from Iran, including acceleration of uranium enrichment by Tehran. Recent statements by the Biden administration offer hope that a favorable issue is still within reach. But time is of the essence. And the current confrontation with Russia about Ukraine represents a strategic distraction, even if Russia remains aligned with the rest of the P5+3 on the JCPOA issue.  

Q: Do you think Israel will be content with any possible agreement? Do you expect Israel to resort to an adventure to ruin the possible agreement? 

A: Israel will continue to oppose an agreement and pursue a policy of undermining the chances of success, including possible sabotage and provocations ahead of the conclusion of negotiations. But I doubt it would actively challenge an agreement between the parties that has the support of international powers and would be approved by the UNSC.  

Q:  Why did the EU fail to confront U.S. unilateral sanctions against Iran when Trump abandoned the nuclear deal? Is there any guarantee that we would not go back to square one again? 

A: The EU did adopt a mechanism to bypass U.S. sanctions (INSTEX), but it did not turn out to be effective, including because of Iranian bureaucratic obstacles and American extra-territorial sanctions. The EU chose the path of diplomacy in parallel to convince the U.S. to come back on its decision to reject the JCPOA. And as the new administration decided to go back to the JCPOA, it has actively mediated between Iran and the U.S. in Vienna. INSTEX will remain in place with new modalities and hopefully open up the Iranian economy for more trade with EU countries. But remember sanctions are not only there because of the nuclear file.  

Q: How can Western powers collaborate with Eastern powers and players like China, Russia, and Iran in combating terrorist groups, especially ISIS? 

A: Western powers are actively combatting terrorism, including ISIS in the Global Coalition. They seek coordination and cooperation with Eastern powers in order to reconcile strategic goals. Iran would be welcome to join the fight against terrorism.

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