Continuation of Sanctions Deprives US from Interaction with Iran

Monday, January 11, 2016

Exclusive Interview with Mohammad Farhad Koleini
By: Mohammad Ibrahim Taraghinejad

These days, Tehran and Washington are going through tumultuous and tense times in their relations. Although some assessments had it that the achievement of the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA) will prompt Iran and the United States to move toward détente, but efforts made by radical elements on both sides have overshadowed JCPOA and even intensified past distrust. New tension in recent days has been a result of news about the United States’ decision to impose new sanctions on Iran over the country’s missile program. The revelation elicited sharp reactions from Iran’s President, Spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry and high-ranking military commanders. These issues have been discussed in the following interview with Mohammad Farhad Koleini, a senior analyst of strategic issues.

Q: Why Iran’s missile program has been raised by some American media under the current circumstances?

A: If we go back to the time before negotiations related to JCPOA, which led to the achievement of the nuclear deal, we would see that Iran’s negotiating team made a clear and serious line between the nuclear issue and other issues related to Iran such as the missile program, the human rights, and regional issues. In doing so, the Iranian negotiators did not let the opposite side to the negotiations to establish a connection between Iran’s nuclear issue and the country’s defense and national security issues. For this reason, such issues were differentiated as a result of bargaining and negotiations that took place between the two sides, and concerns were even raised in this regard an example of which was worries about inspection of Iran’s military sites. However, what we are faced with today, more than being a reality, is actually a scenario and story. If news dispatches over the past few days are examined, we will see that last week, purposive reports were released on Iranian vessels having fired a missile close to a number of American warships in the Persian Gulf. Iran showed reaction to this report by totally denying it. In fact, that report aimed to create a psychological atmosphere to introduce Iran as a dangerous and adventurous element, so that, by contaminating the public opinion, the negative ground would be provided for imposing new sanctions on the country on account of its missile issue.

The US-based Wall Street Journal, for the first time, carried a report on the possibility of the imposition of new sanctions against Iran over the country’s ballistic missile program. Of course, before that, the US lawmakers had passed a new law to restrict visa issuance to people who have traveled to a number of countries, including Iran, in the past five years, which led to clear protests in European countries and all other countries that seek to cooperate with Iran. Following Iran’s reaction, US Secretary of State John Kerry, wrote a letter to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to justify US lawmakers’ measure, guaranteeing that the new visa law would not weaken the United States’ commitment to implementing JCPOA. I think that measure and those news stories were, in fact, an effort to measure and test Iran’s positions in case new sanctions are imposed and JCPOA is violated. However, during Christmas holidays, a large-scale psychological and media operation combined with extensive lobbying was conducted between the US Department of Treasury and the country’s permanent representative office at the United Nations, on the one hand, and certain sections of the US legislature, on the other hand, in order to get new sanctions over Iran’s missile program going. It would be simplistic to consider all these developments just a coincidence.

Q: Is this measure coordinated with the US administration? How the US government has chosen to deal with such problems?

A: This behavior has been, in fact, an effort to give legitimacy to violation of JCPOA inside the United States, which has been met with White House’s inattention. It seems that the government of the United States lacks a solid system to prevent violation of JCPOA, because in the run-up to the forthcoming presidential election in the United States, various sections of the government may take measures, which would be in violation of JCPOA. Therefore, due attention must be paid to this scenario and story. In fact, the disobedient current that is lurking on the margins of the American government has its own special lobby and connections within the US Congress and wants to use them in order to weigh on current post-JCPOA conditions. Today, we see that scenarios, which were hatched following the conclusion of JCPOA in order to bring it to failure, have not reached their end, but have taken on more complicated and extensive dimensions. In the face of this behavior, the Islamic Republic of Iran has emphasized that it will carefully assess the judgment on JCPOA obligations, how it should be implemented, whether the two sides’ obligations are equal, and whether the other side will act in a responsible manner, and then give an appropriate response.

Q: Why Iran’s missile capability is so attractive to the United States and why that country’s government is constantly bringing up this issue?

A: The issue of imposing new missile-related sanctions on Iran was put forth concurrent with the swap of [Iran's enriched] uranium with Russia within framework of JCPOA, and officials are in a better position to explain about its reason. Americans believe that three issues, that is, stockpile of uranium, Iran’s missile technology and its missile delivery system are important to them. They claim that by transferring Iran’s stockpiled uranium, they have been able to restrict Iran’s defense capability, and in continuation of this trend, they now aim to create restrictions for Iran’s missile capability. In doing so, they want not only to influence the implementation of JCPOA and bring it under their own will, but also to manage the balance in the Middle East by modifying Iran’s defense capacity. However, when it comes to nuclear issue, Iran has already declared its position in a clear manner and at the highest level to show that it is against production of nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, with regard to its conventional missile system, Iran will never allow another country to impose its will on Tehran as the Islamic Republic believes that its defense capability is a legitimate right within framework of deterrence. On the other hand, when the nuclear deal was clinched by Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, many analysts believed that Iran’s regional standing will change as a result of the deal and the country will be able to emerge as the new gravity center for stability and rise as a new convergent regional power.

And it was for this reason that immediately after the progress of JCPOA started, some parties took certain geopolitical measures to speed up escalation of tension and create crises in the region, though their measures were faced with Iran’s smart and insightful response. On the other hand, some analysts believed that by achieving JCPOA, Iran will move in the direction of reclaiming its economic market and for this reason and to contain Iran, the bill to restrict issuance of US visa was brought up in order to control Iran’s economic relations as well as [the United States’] international rivals. A combination of these factors, that is, Iran’s knowledge and regional might, international cooperation, economic interactions, and removal of sanctions, could lead to emergence of an Iran, which would be different from pre-JCPOA Iran, and this is why they want to undermine Iran’s strengths one way or another. Of course, Iran has shown appropriate reactions in this regard and does not allow the rules of game to be changed. The letter written by [Iran’s President Hassan] Rouhani to minister of defense to accelerate and expand Iran’s missile capability can be construed along this line.

Q: We are getting close to the day when the implementation of JCPOA is to begin. What effect can such measures have on the implementation of the nuclear deal?

A: Iran's will certainly give a smart response to this issue. Without a doubt, by refraining from imposing sanctions [on Iran] and following suit with the United States, European countries as well as Russia and China will not show a positive reaction to this unilateral policy adopted by the United States. US President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, had already noted that intensification of sanctions against Iran would end the consensus against the country, but AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) is currently making a hasty effort to bury the US government’s argument under a massive wave of biased news. If imposition of sanctions against Iran continues, the United States will practically deprive itself of the opportunity to interact with Iran in the future. If we go back to the past, we would see that these [nuclear] negotiations are a diplomatic test for the United States and show whether Washington will finally opt for an interactive approach to Iran, or a confrontational one. Today, the use of JCPOA for going beyond a confrontational approach and reaching a point of interaction is being challenged and Mr. Zarif also said in his tweeted message on the occasion of the new Christian year that ‘we must learn from the past mistakes and prevent their repetition’. Let’s not forget that all we achieved in 2015 was a result of diplomacy. The United States must know that undermining steps, which are being taken, has not, and will not, help taking further steps.

Q: It is said that the government of the United States has stepped back from its decision to impose new sanctions on Iran. Have reactions shown by Iranian officials been influential in this regard?

A: This issue was brought up a few days ago. Of course, simultaneous consultations have taken place in this regard in various places in order to remind the opposite side of the consequences of renewing sanctions against Iran and moving backward. Regardless of whether they say they have stepped back [from this decision], or the option of new sanctions is still on the table, or any other literature they may use, they must know that their every measure will be met with a categorical and clear response from Iran. Of course, note that a mysterious current in the United States was, in fact, trying to create a gap between the Iranian administration’s viewpoint and that of other sovereign institutions by raising the issue of missile fired in the Persian Gulf along with threats about imposition of new sanctions on Iran. However, the timely reaction shown by the Iranian president foiled all efforts made by such currents, which were trying to create political gaps in this regard.

Q: It seems that differences between the two main sides of the nuclear agreement over JCPOA may cause problems for its implementation. What can be done to prevent such problems?

A: If the opposite side seeks to find a pretext, it can create a row by resorting to a single word. JCPOA has specified both sides’ obligations and the two sides have reached an understanding and agreed on them. Now, more than an excuse, the parallel imposition of sanctions depends on the opposite side’s determination and approach. Any disruption [in the implementation of JCPOA] is more related to invisible actors.

Key WordsSanctions, US, Interaction, Iran, Tense Times, Relations. Assessments, Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA), Détente, Radical Elements, Distrust, Missile Program, Reactions, Iran’s President, Mohammad Javad Zarif, John Kerry, Koleini 

Source: Etemad Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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*Photo Credit: MGN Online, iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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