By Javad Heiranni
The Tehran Times, January 14, 2018
TEHRAN – Professor Farhang Jahanpour, part-time tutor on the Middle East in the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Oxford, tells the Tehran Times that “It should be remembered that a greater part of the statement released by President Trump is for domestic consumption, and also it is a face-saving formula to persuade his base that he has remained firm in his decision.”
“The nuclear agreement does not prohibit the development of ballistic missiles by Iran,” Jahanpour tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.
He also adds that “The Security Council Resolution that confirmed the deal, in an annex “calls on Iran” to refrain from manufacturing ballistic missiles, but it has been made clear that it is not a binding requirement.”
Following is the full text of the interview:
Q: U.S. President Donald Trump has approved the Iran nuclear deal for only one more time before abandoning it if it is not changed. What are the changes that Trump has in mind?
A: Given President Trump’s earlier statements about the Iran nuclear deal calling it the worst deal in history, and the concerted efforts of the Neo-Conservatives to force him to kill the deal, his decision to waive nuclear-related sanctions one more time is very significant and is probably the best outcome that could be expected under the circumstances. Last time when he decertified the nuclear deal, he called on the U.S. Congress to come up with an amended deal that he could agree with. However, Congress refused to propose an alternative and turned the decision back to the president.
At this point, the president had two choices: either to pull the plug on the deal, or to find a face-saving formula to continue with it, and he has chosen the second option.
The important fact is that not only Russia and China, but the U.S.’s closes allies in Europe strongly urged him to preserve the deal. The EU High Commissioner for Foreign Policy and Security Federica Mogherini chaired a meeting of British, French, German and Iranian foreign ministers only a few days ago, and all the participants openly supported the deal. Ms Mogherini herself said: ““The unity of the international community is essential to preserve a deal that is working, that is making the world safer and that is preventing a potential nuclear arms race in the region. And we expect all parties to continue to fully implement this agreement.” In the light of almost unanimous international support, President Trump had no option but to waive nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.
Q: The White House wants a deal with EU signatories to make restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment permanent. Under the current deal they are set to expire in 2025. Do you think the EU will accept this condition? If so, Will Iran accept it?
A: It should be remembered that a greater part of the statement released by President Trump is for domestic consumption, and also it is a face-saving formula to persuade his base that he has remained firm in his decision. Most of what he has said in the introduction to the statement is the repetition of the charges that he has made in the past against Iran, and they do not contain anything new.
When he says that he calls on Congress to work on bipartisan legislation regarding Iran, this is exactly what he said the last time, and Congress did not take the bait. Some of the points that he makes in his statement are also the points that have already been included in the nuclear deal. The first point is that Iran should allow inspection of all the sites. This is something that Iran has been doing for the past two years. The second point is that Iran should never come close to possessing a nuclear weapon. This too is a part of the agreement and Iran has denied that she was ever intending to manufacture nuclear weapons. The third point is that “unlike the nuclear deal, these provisions must have no expiration date.” Those provisions do not have an expiration date, but it is interesting to note that he has implicitly accepted the expiration dates for the nuclear deal.
Q: Mr Trump also wants Iran’s ballistic missile programme to be addressed. Iran frequently has emphasized that the ballistic missile programme is not related to the JCPOA and will not negotiate it. According to this, do you think that this condition means the end for the JCPOA?
A: The issue of ballistic missiles is nothing new either. The nuclear agreement does not prohibit the development of ballistic missiles by Iran. The Security Council Resolution that confirmed the deal, in an annex “calls on Iran” to refrain from manufacturing ballistic missiles, but it has been made clear that it is not a binding requirement. What the nuclear agreement requires is that Iran does not develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. As Iran does not have nuclear weapons and does not intend to manufacture them that condition too is already in force.
On the whole, Iran should continue to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement and cooperate with the IAEA and with other signatories to the deal. The fact that President Trump has again waived nuclear-related sanctions sets a precedent for the future.
So, despite his threats that he would not certify the deal again, it seems that if the other signatories to the deal continue supporting its implementation, President Trump will have no option but to continue with it. Of course, the best option would be for Congress not to require him to certify it every three months, thus preventing his reluctance to keep certifying it.
If there is goodwill on all sides, it is possible to discuss other contentious issues between Iran and the West under different headings. The Iranian government has repeatedly stated that it intended the nuclear deal to be the floor, not the ceiling of agreements with the West. There are many issues on which Iran can cooperate with the West, such as the war against terrorism, helping to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and also putting pressure on Saudi Arabia to put an end to the carnage in Yemen and to reach a negotiated settlement of the conflict.