(Persia Digest) – In an interview with Persia Digest, William O. Beeman said: The entire JCPOA cannot be canceled by the United States unilaterally. It was a multilateral agreement, ratified by the UN and the EU.
Donald Trump will be deciding the fate of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the JCPOA, on 12 May 2018 and whether the US will decertify and withdraw from the multilateral agreement. Recently “The Washington Post” wrote that Trump will exit from the deal. But, “The Economist” writes that staying in the deal is also a possibility. The EU signatories to the deal have increasingly tried to keep and implement the JCPOA. Emanuel Macron and Angela Merkel are planning separate trips to Washington at the end of April to try and keep President Trump in the deal. A diplomatic source in Washington has told RIA Novosti that the EU has no plans to renegotiate the JCPOA with Iran. Keeping this in mind:
Persia Digest has conducted an interview on the future of the Iran nuclear deal with William O. Beeman, Professor of Anthropology at The University of Minnesota.
You can read the interview here:
Are Trump’s recent decisions in appointing his new Foreign Minister and choosing John Bolton as National Security Advisor an indication that he may withdraw from the JCPOA? How will these US cabinet turnovers affect relations between Iran and the US in general, and the JCPOA in particular?
It is totally unclear what it would mean for the United States to unilaterally withdraw from the JCPOA. In fact, the President cannot do this by himself. It would require an action of Congress to do this fully, because at least one aspect of withdrawing would involve the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran—and it is not clear what that means. The President’s cabinet has only advisory authority in this matter, but if the United States were to unilaterally withdraw, there is a huge, complicated set of actions that must be worked out. In this, some cabinet officials (State, Treasury, Commerce, Defense, for example) would be involved.
What lies behind EU reasons for keeping the JCPOA and their difference in behavior with Trump regarding the agreement?
The other P5+1 nations, the EU and the United Nations are convinced that the JCPOA has been effective. They point out that Iran has fully complied with the terms of the agreement, and that the United States’ concerns have nothing to do with the terms of the agreement. These concerns deal with matters such as Iran’s activities in Syria, testing of ballistic missiles, and other extraneous matters. They argue that these concerns should be handled in new agreements beyond the JCPOA. Additionally, European and other nations (China, India) have benefited from the lifting of sanctions.
If Trump withdraws from the JCPOA, how will the EU respond? Will it align itself with Trump?
They will not. They have already made this very clear. The entire JCPOA cannot be canceled by the United States unilaterally. It was a multi-national agreement, ratified by the UN and the EU. They are trying to address American concerns about the extraneous matters I have cited above, but they will not withdraw from the JCPOA.
The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has said those who say a US exit from the deal will send signals to North Korea that US commitments to its agreements cannot be relied upon are totally wrong; to the contrary, it will send the message that the US is ready for negotiations and will not accept a bad deal. She has stated: “A strong leadership towards Tehran will yield better results with Pyongyang.” How do you believe the Iran deal will affect talks with North Korea?
The situation with North Korea is different than that with Iran. North Korea already has nuclear weapons and is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), as Iran is. In my opinion, Iran needs to emphasize the NPT much more, because aside from the JCPOA, Iran is bound by the NPT not to develop nuclear weapons—a requirement with which Iran has fully complied, but by which North Korea was not bound. It was the basis for the JCPOA. The original UN sanctions (SC1996) were enacted in 2006 as “confidence building” to make sure Iran adhered to the NPT. That is the entire basis for the agreement, and it seems to have been forgotten. Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea are not signatories to the NPT, and thus the basis for negotiations between them and the United States are completely different.
The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, has said: “Our enemies must know that if the JCPOA is overturned (albeit we do not pursue such a goal), our top officials can decide, under such special circumstances, to respond accordingly to those who withdraw from the deal.” Although Mr Salehi’s comments are not very lucid, but what is your opinion on a US withdrawal and the approach Iran should take? What options will Iran have?
Iran is still bound by the NPT. If Iran were to develop a nuclear weapons program (which it has not), it would have to withdraw from the NPT. The Trump administration apparently doesn’t understand this. If somehow the JCPOA were considered null and void, the NPT and Iran’s compliance with its provisions would have to be re-examined, but it will still be in force.
Stephen Walt, American professor of international relations at Harvard University's John F Kennedy School of Government, has written in his latest article in “Foreign Policy” that a war between Iran and the US is not probable; but the danger is higher here than it is with a US-N Korea war. Should the US decertify and destroy the JCPOA multilateral agreement, what do you think are the chances of a military confrontation between Iran and the US?
First, the ability of the United States to unilaterally destroy the JCPOA is not a foregone conclusion. The decertification only would apply to the United States and not the other parties. Second, Iran will never initiate a military conflict with the United States. The United States during the Bush administration tried again and again to show that Iran had attacked U.S. troops in Iraq. They could not do this. The American navy has tried to goad the Iranian navy into some kind of attack. If there is to be a conflict between the United States and Iran, the United States will have to strike the first blow. It would be more likely that Israel would do this, but at present there is no justification whatever for such an attack. The JCPOA and the NPT are guarantees that Iran would not have a nuclear weapons program, which would be the only possible justification for a U.S. attack on Iran.
William O. Beeman is Professor and Chair of the Anthropology Department at The University of Minnesota and Middle East Researcher. He has authored books on Iran, including The “Great Satan” vs. the “Mad Mullahs”, “Iranian Performance Traditions”, “Language, Status and Power in Iran “, and Culture, Performance and Communication in Iran