ODVV interview: Prospects for peace in the...
The withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, was one of the most notable foreign policy developments of 2018. It was after the U.S. pullout that President Donald Trump reinstated all the anti-Iran sanctions that were removed as part of the nuclear deal, vowing to punish Iran with the “toughest sanctions” ever.
As a multilateral accord, the JCPOA was signed by Iran, five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany and endorsed by the United Nations. The agreement caps Iran’s nuclear activities through specific technical limitations in return for the removal of the nuclear-related sanctions that had targeted the country’s economy for years. The United States was one of the negotiating partners and one of the signatories of the Iran deal. President Trump decided that the U.S. should not remain in this deal anymore.
Shortly before President Trump’s de-certification of the JCPOA, a Morning Consult–Politico survey found in May 2018 that 56 percent of Americans backed the nuclear deal with Iran while only 26 percent opposed it. In a statement announcing the U.S. withdrawal, the White House said the “unacceptable” deal “failed to protect America’s national security interests[,] … enriched the Iranian regime and enabled its malign behavior.” In August and November 2018, President Trump unveiled two packages of economic sanctions targeting hundreds of Iranian entities and individuals. The sanctions include restrictions on Iran’s oil, petrochemical, banking, insurance and aviation sectors, to name a few. Ever since exiting the Iran deal, the United States has been pressuring Iran’s oil clients and traditional trade partners to stop doing business with Iran or risk being penalized by the U.S. secondary sanctions.
The Organization for Defending Victim of Violence did an interview with Gary Haufbauer, a nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics on the implications of the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran deal for international peace and security and the human cost of the U.S. sanctions on Iran. Gary Haufbauer has previously served as the Maurice Greenberg Chair and Director of Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and deputy assistant secretary for international trade and investment policy of the U.S. Treasury.
Q: What was Donald Trump’s logic for exiting the Iran nuclear deal? What are the implications of his withdrawal from the JCPOA for international peace and security?
A: Trump does not believe that Iran will faithfully implement the JCPOA and stop the development of nuclear weapons and missiles. If the JCPOA falls apart in the wake of U.S. withdrawal, the prospects for peace in the Middle East will decline.
Q: How effective are the new U.S. sanctions against Iran? Are they able to fulfil the U.S. goals while Iran has made it clear that it will not capitulate under pressure? Don’t these punitive measures widen the gap between Iran and the United States and destroy the possibility of the rebuilding of ties?
A: The U.S. sanctions will be very effective in terms of punishing the Iranian economy. This is especially true since many U.S. allies will choose to do business with the U.S. rather than Iran. However, economic pain does not readily translate into Iranian willingness to observe U.S. political conditions. As long as the U.S. pursues the present policies, the possibility of rebuilding U.S.-Iran ties is practically zero.
Q: What’s your assessment of the establishment of the INSTEX special purpose vehicle by the three major European countries to facilitate legitimate trade with Iran? Does the launching of INSTEX indicate that Europe is determined to defy the unilateralism of the United States and resist its campaign of economic pressure on Iran?
A: That’s a good question. My guess is that, if INSTEX appears to be working and fostering a large volume of trade, the U.S. will expand its sanctions regulations to deter the use of INSTEX.
Q: The U.S. government rejected the ruling of the International Court of Justice following a complaint lodged by Iran against the United States over the reimposition of economic sanctions. ICJ had ruled that the United States should abolish the sanctions related to humanitarian trade, food, medicine, medical equipment and aviation. However, the U.S. government said it will not follow the verdict. What’s the message of the U.S. defiance against the highest court of the United Nations?
A: The U.S. government in the Trump presidency has little respect for the ICJ or other international court systems. Fundamentally, Trump is breaking away from the post-World War II order. What the new order will look like remains to be seen. Jostling between the great powers is my guess.
Q: What do you think about the humanitarian impact of the U.S. sanctions against Iran and their role in the devastation of the livelihoods of ordinary citizens? What should be done to mitigate their impact?
A: Food and humanitarian exceptions are generally applauded in sender countries. I question whether that makes a lot of difference to target countries. However, I am very sympathetic to the plight of ordinary citizens, and for that reason I am seldom a champion of comprehensive sanctions.
Q: CIA director Gina Haspel, FBI director Christopher Wray and the director of national intelligence Daniel Coates testified in a recent Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that Iran has been complying with the terms of the Iran nuclear deal despite the U.S. withdrawal from the accord. President Donald Trump doesn’t agree with the high-ranking intelligence officials of the United States and says Iran is in violation of the deal. What do you think is the reason?
A: Well, I place more faith in the intelligence officials than in Trump’s inner circle. I think Iran has become a whipping boy for political purposes – U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia and the 2020 presidential election.
Q: Is it realistic to expect that Donald Trump will be a one-term president and the U.S. government shifts it policy towards Iran and other countries?
A: The polls today suggest Trump will be a one-term president, but a lot can happen between now and November 2020.
By: Kourosh Ziabari