(Persia Digest) – In an interview with Persia Digest, Paul Pillar has said leaving the JCPOA is a step in the direction of isolating the United States. It is also a blow to U.S. credibility, when it comes to trying to negotiate agreements with anybody on anything.

Donald Trump has finally made good on his election campaign promise to quit the JCPOA Iran nuclear deal. Most countries have opposed his move, including the EU, China, and Russia. President Rouhani has announced that Iran will stay in the deal if the remaining signatories remain committed to it. But White House national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday that "it's possible" there will be secondary sanctions imposed on European companies as a result of the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Persia Digest has conducted an interview on the future of the Iran nuclear deal with Paul Pillar.

You can read the interview here:

The EU, in words at least, wants to keep the JCPOA and has opposed Trump’s move. But, are they able to give Iran guarantees to prevent secondary US sanctions from affecting Iran’s dealings with other countries?

European governments appear determined to do what they can to counteract the U.S. sanctions and to keep Iran in the agreement. There is only so much they can do, however. There is not much they can do to change the understandable business calculations of firms that have a significant stake in the U.S. market or the U.S. financial system and do not want to risk that position by doing business with Iran.  The best hope of European governments may lie in aggressive measures that do not just try to mitigate the effects of U.S. sanctions but retaliate in ways that hurt U.S. interests and might induce the Trump administration to ease up on the secondary sanctions. 

Some say that in leaving the JCPOA, Trump has in fact ignored his European allies. The cover of Der Spiegel weekly magazine was especially interesting with the caption “GOODBYE, EUROPE!” Earlier, Trump's decision to increase import tariffs on steel and aluminum had already angered Europe. Will the American withdrawal from the JCPOA widen the gap between Europe and the US?

Trump’s move significantly widens the gap. Restricting Iran’s nuclear program through a negotiated agreement was at least as much a European project as an American one, and so the blow against the JCPOA is felt especially heavily in some European capitals. Moreover, the Europeans have concluded correctly that the Trump administration has exhibited bad faith in talking about fixes and supplemental agreements even when Trump was determined all along to try to kill the agreement for very personal and political reasons.

Read more: 

► Tirman: JCPOA opportunity for EU to leave US dominance

► Nephew: EU can prevent secondary sanctions against Iran


tephen Walt is an American professor of international relations at Harvard University. On 2 May 2018, he wrote in Foreign Policy that the leaders of the three European powers are “the main reason for the possible failure of the JCPOA.” If European passivity continues to hinder Iran’s benefits under the deal and leads to an Iranian withdrawal from the JCPOA and its demise, how will the EU’s global positioning be affected?

If the European effort fails and the JCPOA dies, it will be a significant setback for the EU with possibly wider implications. It would demonstrate that even on a matter of this importance, and on which Trump lacks any reasonable justification for what he has done (given that Iran has been observing its obligations), Europe still cannot get out from under America’s thumb.

How will US sanctions be effective and impact Iran if it decides to remain in the JCPOA? Will they affect the Iranian economy like before?

Clearly they still will have a negative effect on the Iranian economy, notwithstanding efforts in the other direction by the other parties to the JCPOA.  Most significant will be the effect of secondary U.S. sanctions on European firms, more so than U.S. businesses not being able to operate in Iran.

Will the US withdrawal from the multilateral agreement have actual, tangible implications for this country? Some talk about the US isolation and discredit among other countries. To what extent will the fallout of this decision be real for the US?

The move is a step in the direction of isolating the United States. It also is a blow to U.S. credibility, when it comes to trying to negotiate agreements with anybody on anything. Some of the earliest effects in this regard might be felt in U.S. dealings with North Korea. The reneging on the JCPOA will make it harder for Trump to close any sort of deal with North Korea.

Paul R Pillar is an academic and 28-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), serving from 1977 to 2005, including as Executive Assistant to the Director. He is now a non-resident senior fellow at Georgetown University's Center for Security Studies, as well as a nonresident senior fellow in the Brookings Institution's Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence. He was a visiting professor at Georgetown University from 2005 to 2012. He is a contributor to The National Interest.

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