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A Survey: How to Protect the Legacy of Iran Deal One Year after Its Birth

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Kourosh Ziabari

One year has elapsed since a groundbreaking diplomatic arrangement after nearly two years of demanding, high-level negotiations brought a happy end to a decade-long crisis undermining stability and security in the Middle East and beyond.

The Iran nuclear deal, conventionally dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was agreed by the top diplomats of Iran and six global powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) last July and placed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to ensure this scientific capability won’t develop into a pathway for producing atomic weapons. In return, all the nuclear-related economic sanctions slapped on Iran were terminated, Tehran was reconnected to global financial system and as attested by Iranian authorities and their foreign counterparts, the oil-rich nation’s crude production and exports reached the pre-sanctions levels after several years of stagnation.

Even the deal’s most fervent detractors, including the Republicans at the U.S. Congress who went all out to upend the JCPOA and block any possible Iran-U.S. detente, admit that Iran has done everything it is required to do under the agreement and kept its word faithfully by capping the scopes of its nuclear activities. This is a motivation for the international community to continue working to protect the legacy of a diplomatic accord President Barack Obama considers his signature foreign policy achievement, and Tehran interprets as the beginning of a new chapter in its relations with the international community.

The Iranian officials and public have been somewhat disappointed about how the deal has been enforced, complaining that the sanctions removal is not taking place smoothly and the nation’s multi-billion dollar deals with foreign companies, including a tentative $25 billion agreement with the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing to purchase some 100 jetliners are put in jeopardy by those who wish to bring the JCPOA to a deadlock. This means Iranians are still waiting to embrace the economic benefits of the nuclear deal, but those benefits have not fully emerged yet.

On the first anniversary of the signing of the nuclear deal, Iran Review contacted a number of noted public policy scholars and former diplomats, asking them to propose three hypothetical actions they believe Iran and the other sides of the agreement need to take to realize the expectations the JCPOA was meant to fulfill and preclude its failure.

This is the question Iran Review shared with several distinguished experts worldwide, and given the constraint of time and the deadline we had set, seven of them sent us their feedback in a timely fashion:

·Q: On the first anniversary of the nuclear deal reached by Iran and the six world powers, what do you think are the three main actions the parties to the agreement need to take so that it comes to fruition and does not fail?

The following are the answers returned to us by seven noted scholars, university professors and former diplomats.

*Prof. Stephen Eric Bronner

- Stephen Eric Bronner is a political theorist and Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Comparative Literature, and German Studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. He is currently the Director of Global Relations at the Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights at Rutgers University, and member of Executive Committee of the UNESCO Chair for Genocide Prevention. He is the author of over 25 books and 200 journal articles.

1) The United States must end remaining sanctions, and actually encourage further investment, while Iran must keep to its negotiated commitments.

2) The United States must weaken its ties to Saudi Arabia and accept the idea that the Ba’ath Party should participate in any negotiations intent upon reconfiguring Syria.

3) The United States and Iran must publicize their cooperation more effectively both regarding their joint actions in fighting ISIL and their willingness to radically expand intellectual and cultural exchanges. 

*Amb. Thomas Pickering

- Thomas Pickering is a retired United States diplomat. He served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1989 to 1992. In May 1997, he was appointed as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs by Secretary Madeleine Albright. He has served on the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and is a trustee and former co-chair of the International Crisis Group. He has been the U.S. ambassador to Jordan, Nigeria, El Salvador, Israel, India and Russia as well.

1) U.S. needs to continue to work closely with Iran, the European banks and the international business community to assure that where sanctions relief permits, the best approaches to working with Iran’s economy are employed to assure that Iran benefits from all the areas of the agreement to which it is entitled.

2) Iran needs to continue scrupulously observe all the elements of the agreement related to its obligations.

3) Iran and the United States need to remain in close contact so that any misunderstandings, both about the agreement and other areas where they share common interests and actions, are closely understood and no actions taken to disturb the full compliance with the JCPOA, including maintaining existing and future needed channels of communication.

*Dr. Lawrence Korb

- Lawrence Korb was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics from 1981 to 1985 under President Ronald Reagan and Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and previously directed national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He also serves a senior advisor to the Center for Defense Information.

1) Ensure that that IAEA has the access it needs to the agreed upon sites.

2) Ensure that Iran has access to the global banking system.

3) Have all the parties work together to defeat ISIS.

*Amb. Peter Jenkins

- Peter Jenkins is a British career diplomat. From 2001 to 2006, he was the UK Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency and other UN organizations at Vienna. From 2010 to 2012, he collaborated with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy as an associate fellow. He has served on several senior diplomatic assignments, including as the UK’s chief representative to the World Trade Organization in Geneva. He regularly comments and writes about Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy.

1) The United States should make arrangements for Iran to access all foreign sales revenues that are on deposit in banks outside Iran.

2) The United States should license the sale of Boeing and Airbus aircraft to Iran and take steps to ensure that bank financing for those transactions can be found, if necessary.

3) Iran should continue to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency and implement its other JCPOA commitments, even if the U.S. Congress or the next U.S. administration take steps to provoke Iran into abandoning implementation of that agreement. The goal of the JCPOA is not to satisfy U.S. exactions but to restore international confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s full commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

*Col. Lawrence Wilkerson

- Lawrence B. Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel a former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson heads the Colin Powell Leadership Club and serves on the advisory board of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. Col. Wilkerson has been the Associate Director of the State Department’s Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass.

1) First, the P5+1, led hopefully by the U.S., must provide real sanctions relief. That is to say, relief that gives Iran’s economy a significant boost that will ensure Rouhani’s presidency continues and that the people who supported him are rewarded for that support.

2) Second, Iran must pull in its tentacles somewhat with regard to its actions that tempt the West to be more suppressive, through other sanctions as well as those supposedly relieved under the JCPOA. Such actions include real ones as well as rhetorical ones, like the frequent pronouncements by the IRGC leadership about Israel, Iran’s rights, and the various proxy and indirect wars Iran is waging. Real ones include extensive ballistic missile testing, interference in Afghanistan, and too direct and extensive support for Shia militias in Iraq against the Sunnis, as well as the war in Yemen.

3) Third, both Tehran and Washington, and other P5 capitals and Berlin, need to discard their mutual idea that no further widening of relations are possible and get on with just that. There needs to be cooperation and collaboration on all manners of other matters, from ending the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen, to beginning work on a formal security arrangement for the Persian Gulf region.

*Prof. William Beeman

- William O. Beeman is the Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. A frequent commentator on Iran, he was President of the Middle East Section at the American Anthropological Association between 2005 and 2008. He has published a number of scholarly works on Iran’s culture and politics, including his 2011 book “Iranian Performance Traditions.”

1) Actions for the United States:

The United States needs to clarify its position on international banking and money transfer to Iran. The United States continues to maintain its own sanctions unrelated to the JCPOA, but it has refused to clarify questions about international banking transfers to Iran from Europe or Asia that might involve U.S. dollars. As a result international banks are afraid to engage in trade and investment for fear of being fined by the United States, as they have been in the past

President Obama needs to veto all the bills that would restrict lawful trade with Iran, including a current pending bill in the House of Representatives blocking the sale of Boeing equipment to Iran Air – no action will be taken on this bill for a month due to Congressional recess.

The U.S. press needs to acknowledge Iran’s adherence to the JCPOA and not mix this up with other matters such as the war in Syria.

The Democratic Party needs to remove needless war-mongering statements about Iran from its party platform. At present the platform threatens “military action” if Iran fails to live up to the JCPOA. The Republican Party platform is worse, but this is expected of them, and currently Democrats are favored to win the November elections. 

2) Actions for Iran

Iran needs to maintain its strict adherence to the provisions of the JCPOA. In this way U.S. inaction on the accords are seen as a violation of the accords –they are, in fact, and the United States cannot fault Iran for not keeping its part of the bargain

Iran needs to avoid all actions that needlessly antagonize the world community, such as retention of international prisoners without charges.

Iran needs to emphasize that anti-American rhetoric has been greatly reduced in Iran. Hostile wall murals have disappeared and public vilification of the United States has largely stopped.

Iran needs to emphasize its help in combating ISIS (Daesh) in Iraq and Syria, showing it as a positive actor in the region.

For Iran to unilaterally continue to loosen travel and study restrictions for U.S. citizens would be a tremendous help. American travelers to Iran are universally positive about Iran and Iranian people after visiting. They come back to the United States and create highly positive images of Iran that counter the negative press Iran receives in the United States.

We can only hope that the JCPOA will continue to be honored by both sides. It is the best guarantee of regional peace.

*Dr. Pierre Goldschmidt

- Pierre Goldschmidt is a nuclear scientist and the former Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency. He served in that position from May 1999 until June 2005. Currently, he is a non-resident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Goldschmidt is a member of the European Nuclear Society’s High Scientific Council and a recipient of the 2008 Joseph A. Burton Forum Award from the American Physical Society.

A year has passed since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was agreed upon between Iran and the P5+1. Iran has complied so far with all its obligations under the JCPOA, but some Iranian officials complain that its implementation is too slow on the other side.

Iran’s disappointment may well constitute the greatest threat to the full implementation of the nuclear deal in the short term. Although the U.S. and the EU have lifted all nuclear-related sanctions, one has to acknowledge that the sanctions imposed in view of the human rights situation in Iran and its support for terrorism are not part of the JCPOA and remain in place.

As a result of the lifting of the nuclear-related sanctions, the Iranian economy is slowly picking up. For instance Iran has received $3.4 billion in foreign investment since January and has boosted oil production and now exports 2.3 million barrels per day, more than twice the figure at the time of sanctions.

It is clear however that the impact on the Iranian economy will be progressive and not as fast as was anticipated by many in Iran.

The EU is very keen to increase its commercial transactions with Iran. A lot of contacts are taking place and a number of major contracts have already been signed. In January Iran signed a contract to buy 118 Airbus planes, and the French carmaker Peugeot-Citroen has recently announced its return to Iran under a €400m joint venture with its old partner Iran Khodro in Tehran.

In early May Iran’s vice president and nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi paid a visit to the Czech Republic to develop bilateral nuclear cooperation between the two countries, specifically aimed at bolstering Iran’s civilian nuclear program and the Iranian Nuclear Regulatory Authority. I can only encourage Belgian firms and authorities to do the same, since Belgium has a huge expertise in this area.

For instance, the Belgian firm IBA, a world leader in proton therapy, should be able to deliver equipment to Iran that offers the possibility of treating cancer with a lower integral radiation dose to patients.

It is true however that many European firms have been wary of business with Iran because of huge fines levied in the past against banks such as BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse for sanctions violations. With more experience, this perceived risk should progressively disappear. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has personally made a large effort to engage with banks and businesses who are reluctant to move without fully understanding what they are allowed to do or not.

The JCPOA will survive any political storm as long as it is in every party’s best interest to pursue its full implementation. The future is unpredictable but as of today I can’t see which state-party could reasonably have a real interest in scuttling the deal during the coming nine years, even if some opposition groups will likely try to undermine its implementation.

Key Words: Iran, Nuclear Deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, U.S. Congress, Barack Obama, Deadlock, First Anniversary, Stephen Eric Bronner, Sanctions, Thomas Pickering, Saudi Arabia, ISIL, Lawrence Korb, Misunderstandings, IAEA, ISIS, Peter Jenkins, Boeing, Airbus, Lawrence Wilkerson, Rouhani’s Presidency, IRGC, Democratic Party, Republican Party, Daesh, Iraq, Syria, Pierre Goldschmidt, Terrorism, European Firms, Implementation, Ziabari

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