ODVV interview: The humanitarian consequences...
The withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal is a major topic of discussion in the media and academic forums these days despite being almost seven months old. The other parties to the agreement, known as the JCPOA, have been trying steadfastly to save it despite all-out efforts by the United States to undermine and kill it.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has once again confirmed Iran’s compliance with its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA in a November report, making it clear that despite the de-certification of the July 2015 deal by the United States, Iran remains in compliance with it.
The United States has reinstated all the sanctions that Iran was relieved from by virtue of the JCPOA and introduced new punitive measures, engendering a wide-ranging debate about the humanitarian consequences of these sanctions.
Other parties to the agreement have reiterated that they will defy the United States and maintain their trade ties with Iran. European Union has talked of devising a Special Purpose Vehicle for legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran, which has not been put in place yet.
In an interview with Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, the Director of the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland Prof. Nancy Gallagher said the humanitarian consequences of the reimposition of U.S. sanctions against Iran are “particularly unfortunate” and widely condemned.
Nancy Gallagher is a research professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. She had previously served as the executive director of Clinton administration's Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Task Force. Prof. Gallagher works on public opinion surveys about security policy in the United States, Iran and other countries.
ODVV talked to Prof. Gallagher about the fate of the Iran deal and the human cost of the U.S. sanctions against Iran. The following is the text of the interview.
Q: By withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the U.S. government paved the way for imposing harsh economic sanctions against Iran. What can be the appropriate and logical response by Iran and other parties to the deal to the U.S. move? The decision by President Trump actually violated the UN Security Council resolution 2231. What do you think?
A: Assuming that Iran and the other parties to the JCPOA still believe that agreement to be in their own best interest and good for the international community as a whole, they should do their best to keep the deal alive despite the Trump administration’s efforts to kill it. If Iran were to withdraw from the deal and restart some aspects of its nuclear program that had been limited by the deal, that would cause many countries that do not currently see Iran as a threat to be more receptive to claims that Iran is the most dangerous country in the region.
Q: What do you think about the humanitarian consequences of the U.S. sanctions against Iran? Aren't these punitive measures that disrupt the livelihoods of ordinary citizens cruel and shouldn't the international community resist them?
A: The humanitarian consequences of the reimposition of U.S. sanctions against Iran are particularly unfortunate and are already being widely condemned. European countries may want their first special purpose vehicle to focus on facilitating humanitarian trade since the United States claims that its sanctions are not intended to interfere with it.
Q: Following a complaint by Iran, the International Court of Justice ruled that the U.S. sanctions against Iran are illegitimate and humanitarian trade, food, medicine and civil aviation should be exempt from the sanctions. The United States announced that it will ignore the ruling. What's your take on that?
A: This U.S. administration is staunchly opposed to the International Court of Justice having any authority to tell the United States what it can and cannot do, so it is no surprise that the U.S. intends to ignore this ruling.
Q: Do the European Union and other parties to the nuclear agreement with Iran have the determination to save the Iran nuclear deal and resist the unilateralism of the United States, whose official say they will reduce Iran's oil exports to zero?
A: That remains to be seen. The political leaders are extremely angry about the Trump administration’s withdrawal not only from the JCPOA, but also from the Paris climate agreement and other important accords. They see Trump’s trade wars as damaging their own economies and putting the global economy at risk. They also hate the imposition of secondary sanctions. But they have limited ability to convince private companies to take economic risks and they do not want their relationship with the United States to fall apart completely.
Q: The new U.S. sanctions against Iran are unilateral and the UN Security Council and the international organizations don't endorse them. Should the world countries follow the U.S. lead in imposing sanctions on Iran and curtailing their trade ties with Tehran? Won't they compromise their political and economic independence this way?
A: Each country has to make its own decision about how to respond. Some countries share the Trump administration’s view of Iran and are enthusiastic about the reimposition of sanctions. Other countries disagree with what the Trump administration is doing and are trying to minimize the sanctions’ negative effects on trade with Iran, but will not make resistance their highest priority. Some countries may believe that the political benefits of showing independence from the U.S. outweigh whatever economic costs they incur, but it’s not clear yet who is in that group.
Q: What should the countries like Iran that are subject to unilateral coercive measures and unilateral sanctions do to counter the detrimental impacts of such measures?
A: In the public opinion surveys we have conducted, the Iranian people have always placed more blame for their economic woes on internal corruption and mismanagement than on external sanctions. The more that the government of Iran can do to address those internal problems, the better Iran’s economy will be despite U.S. sanctions. That would show the people of Iran and the rest of the world that the United States is not all powerful.
The content of the interview is the sole responsibility of its interviewee and any opinions expressed herein should not be taken to represent an official position of the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence.
By: Kourosh Ziabari