Tom Farer says: Leaving JCPOA is isolating US

Tom Farer says: Leaving  JCPOA is isolating US
ID : N-404 Date : 2017/10/05 - 12:19

(Persia digest) - I believe the US will be isolated with respect to this particular issue, Farer said on JCPOA.

Donald Trump has called the Iran nuclear agreement (JCPOA) “the worst deal ever”. Even his national security advisers have acknowledged that the deal has achieved its goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The IAEA has already certified Iran’s compliance with the deal eight times. Although Trump has once again suspended Iran's nuclear sanctions, yet some experts are talking about the possibility of him leaving the deal; this is while the other parties to the agreement want to stay in the deal.

Persia Digest has conducted an interview with Tom Farer about the future of the JCPOA and whether President Trump will withdraw from deal. Tom Farer is University Professor at the University of Denver, a position he assumed after serving for fourteen years (1996-2010) as Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.  He has been a fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Carnegie Endowment and The Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C.  He has worked in the Department of State as special assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs and in the Department of Defense as special assistant to the General Counsel. He has consulted for Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights organizations.

You can read the interview here:

In your view, will Donald Trump leave the Iran nuclear deal in the same way he left the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Paris Agreement? Or are his verbal threats just that? 

I believe there is a serious risk that President Trump will either withdraw from the deal or demand renegotiation of important elements of it.

What will the consequences be for the US if it withdraws from the agreement? How will it impact international confidence in US commitments? 

The consequences are unclear.  I suspect that elements of the Iranian Government who were skeptical about the deal will propose reciprocal withdrawal if Trump withdraws.  However, I think, certainly I hope wiser heads prevail and that while no doubt denouncing withdrawal, the Iranian Government initially adopts a wait-and-see attitude.  I believe that the other parties to the agreement will continue to support the agreement and will refuse a US request or demand that they join in renewed or even heightened sanctions against Iran.  In that event, President Trump may threaten to sanction foreign corporations and governments which reject Trump’s call for new sanctions.  If Trump takes the position that the US is not bound by the agreement, that would undermine confidence in commitments Trump himself makes during his Presidency.  Since Trump is likely to be perceived as a political anomaly, I optimistically conclude that his action will not have a long-term impact on perceptions of US reliability.  But I could be wrong.  Much will depend on what other moves Trump makes and what support they receive internally.  


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In Iran, some experts believe that the withdrawal of the United States from the multilateral nuclear agreement would lead to an international isolation for America. How much do you agree with this proposition?

I believe the US will be isolated with respect to this particular issue, but not in some larger sense.  After all, the US will remain the lynchpin of the international economic order. Moreover, dozens of countries will remain dependent for their security on US guarantees.

When the US approved the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 (ILSA), Europe did not yield to acting against Iran. If the US withdraws from the deal and imposes new sanctions against Iran, would a European refusal to follow suit be a possibility? What will be the role of private and multinational corporations in this case? Will they be prepared to work with Iran?

To some extent I have already answered this question in responding to your second question.  I believe that most European Governments will not agree to impose new sanctions as long as Iran complies with the agreement.  US-based corporations and financial institutions would have to comply with renewed sanctions by the United States.  Corporations and financial institutions centered in other countries will face difficult choices if Trump threatens their access to the US market or proposes to fine them for investing in or trading with Iran.  I anticipate that the governments of other countries will object strongly to such secondary sanctions.


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Trump's decision to withdraw from the JCPOA agreement, to which the United States has already committed, brings a kind of coercion and bullying to mind. How much of his behavior is consistent with American values, democracy, and justice?

Since the Embassy Hostage Crisis of 1979, the dominant popular and elite narrative in each country has pictured the other country as an enemy.  Moreover, in the narrative that dominates popular discourse in the US, Iran is not a democracy because religious leaders can ban candidates who question the allocation of authority within the country and because the military and security services are not under the control of the elected President. The dominant narrative in the US also portrays Iran as a supporter of movements which have been prepared to employ methods which violate international humanitarian law, as well as supporting the Syrian Government whose attacks on protected targets like medical institutions and use of chemical weapons against civilian targets are well documented.  Finally, Iran is seen in US public opinion as extremely hostile to a US ally, namely Israel.  As a consequence, a decision by Trump to withdraw from the JCPOA would not be perceived in the US as inconsistent with US values or democracy or justice.  However, probably a very substantial majority of American foreign policy experts believe withdrawal would be a grave error and therefore support compliance.  They believe that other points of contention between Iran and the US should be negotiated separately, that is they should not be tied to the JCPOA. 

 Persia Digest: To learn more about Iran's political system, click here.

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