ODVV interview: Iran should stick to the...
The U.S. President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal was one of the most notable foreign policy developments of 2018. By pulling the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, President Trump violated a deal that was the outcome of months of intense negotiations between the diplomats of Iran and six world powers, including the United States, to put an end to a decade-old standoff surrounding Iran’s nuclear program. The deal was upheld by the UN Security Council that had endorsed it in the Resolution 2231.
The de-certification of the JCPOA was a precursor to the introduction of harsh economic sanctions against Iran by the United States that many observers say will take a heavy toll on the ordinary Iranian citizens by strangulating the oil-rich nation’s economy. The sanctions target Iran’s banking, shipping, insurance, oil and aviation sectors and are meant to cut off Iran’s links with the global financial institutions. The U.S. officials say they are determined to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero and sign a better deal with Tehran that addresses a variety of sticking points between Iran and the international community, including, but not limited to, its nuclear activities.
President Trump’s decision to upend the Iran deal and impose new sanctions on Iran met opposition from Washington’s European allies and marked a serious rift between the United States and its partners. The Europeans are after salvaging the nuclear deal and have maintained that they will ensure Iran reaps the financial benefits of the JCPOA. Iran lodged a complaint against the United States to the International Court of Justice over the sanctions that were seen, according to Iran, a violation of the 1955 Treaty of Amity between Iran and the United States. The UN court ruled in favor of Iran and called upon the United States to remove the sanctions relating to humanitarian needs, medicine, foodstuff, agricultural commodities and civil aviation. The response by the United States was terminating the 1955 treaty and ignoring the ruling of the ICJ.
In an interview with Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell said Iran should stick to the nuclear agreement and make the United States the isolated party, which is reprimanded for its withdrawal from the Iran deal while Iran has complied with its commitments under the deal. Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William and Mary. He responded to ODVV’s questions about the JCPOA and the new U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Q: What was President Donald Trump's logic for scrapping the Iran nuclear deal? What does the American society, the Congress Democrats, media and the former national security and Foreign Service officials think about his decision to pull out of the JCPOA?
A: Trump had no logic other than the impeccable logic of satisfying his political base. He promised them he would do it, so he did it. Most Americans realize he did not withdraw from the agreement, he violated it. He is still in violation. A small majority, I think, wish we could re-engage with the Iranians under the agreement. I think that small majority is now about 51-53%.
Q: What do you think about the human impact of the new U.S. sanctions against Iran? Doesn't it matter to the Trump administration that the livelihoods of ordinary Iranian citizens will be disrupted?
A: No, the Trump Administration, particularly men such as Bolton and Pompeo, do not care at all.
Q: What can be the best response by Iran to the unilateral sanctions of the United States? Iran has complied with its commitments under the nuclear deal and the IAEA has confirmed this in 12 reports so far. How can Iran reduce the stringent effects of the sanctions and make the situation better for its people?
A: Stick to the agreement and make the U.S. the isolated party. But far more important, go after the awesome corruption in Iran. The leaders of Iran’s oil industry, for example, steal billions from the Iranian people; they are as bad as the British oil company, Anglo-Iranaian Oil (IOAC) used to be. Sanctions would not hurt the Iranian people half so much if it were not for this widespread Iranian corruption.
Q: How serious is the rift created between the United States and Europe over the Iran deal? Will the European Union resist pressure from Washington in order to preserve the Iran deal and maintain the possibility of doing trade with Iran, or will it shift its strategy and leave Tehran alone?
A: The rift with the EU, with leading powers in Europe like Germany and France, and with major NATO partners is serious beyond the Iran issue. President Trump is intent on breaking the trans-Atlantic link, it seems. But Europe’s ability to stand up to Washington with regard to sanctions depends largely on its willingness to fashion and use alternative banking means, as well as to construct legal arguments that will be persuasive, and I do not have a great deal of confidence in that.
Q: The new U.S. sanctions against Iran are unilateral and don't have the backing of the UN Security Council and the European Union. Are the other world countries obliged to follow the guidelines of the U.S. Department of Treasury and stop trade with Iran? Doesn't this mean that the United States is imposing its will on the international community?
A: It means, simply, that the U.S. is waging economic warfare against Iran and, to an extent, trying to make its allies complicit. It’s my view that in the long run, such actions will backfire and the U.S. will be the ultimate loser.
Q: Do you agree that the Trump administration's aggressive policy towards Iran and its rhetorical attacks against Tehran, coupled with the economic sanctions, will kill the chances of the settlement of disputes between the two sides through negotiations and diplomacy?
A: These things plus Iranian leaders’ continual condemnation of Israel’s right to exist, Iran’s continued presence in Syria, continued support for the Houthis in Yemen, and other activities that serve to destabilize a region that the U.S. has already majorly destabilized, all contribute to the inability to talk.
Q: What's your prediction for the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action? Will the European Union succeed in keeping the deal alive and convince Iran to remain in the agreement?
A: At the moment, I believe Iran will preserve the deal with the help of China, Russia, and Europe. That should be enough to offset the U.S. and, ultimately, cause either a new deal or, God forbid, an attempt by the U.S. to change the regime in Tehran by force of arms. If that happens, then all bets are off.
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