Extension of Iran Emergency State Undermines Nuclear Talks, Harms Region

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reza Nasri
Expert on International Law, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva

This article was originally published in Al-Monitor

In 1979, in response to the hostage crisis, US President Jimmy Carter declared a "state of emergency" concerning Iran. Every November since then, US presidents have routinely renewed the declaration that Iran constitutes an "unusual and extraordinary threat" to US national security. Beside its political perks, maintaining the "state of emergency" allows presidents to impose sanctions and regulate trade with Iran.

However, the decision to renew the declaration against Iran every year seems to be a purely political decision rather than one based on a concrete and objective security assessment. In fact, when Tehran protested the renewal of the state of emergency by President Barack Obama last year following the thaw between the two countries and the historical breakthrough agreement between Iran and the P5+1 in Geneva, the White House simply responded, "This is a routine renewal of the policy" — one that must be renewed "to prevent it from expiring." In other words, Washington preferred not to adapt its Iran policy to new realities.

As we approach the Nov. 24 deadline for the nuclear talks, and as the Islamic State (IS) rampages through Iraqi and Syrian cities, maintaining the same routine by renewing the state of emergency against Iran could have much more disastrous consequences than before — for a few reasons:

First, since the annual renewal of the declaration would inevitably coincide with the decisive last round of nuclear negotiations, the renewal would send Tehran the signal that the Obama administration is not serious about reaching a deal. At best, it would send the message that Obama will not be capable of overcoming domestic political constraints to lift the US unilateral secondary sanctions against Iran once an agreement is reached. From Tehran's perspective, a president who cannot even exercise his own constitutional authority with regard to the renewal of a particular designation would certainly not be able to act on his promise to put an end to politically sensitive sanctions or convince the US Congress to abide by the terms of the eventual agreement. This would reset all the mutual efforts put toward "confidence-building" within the last year and seriously jeopardize the chances of success at the negotiating table. Of course, the failure of the nuclear talks would in turn further complicate the already explosive situation in the Middle East.

Second, the unwarranted renewal of the state of emergency against Iran would seriously impede the chances of cooperation between Tehran and the US-led military coalition against IS. Every actor in the region — including the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Iraqi government and the US administration — knows full well that Iran's help would be indispensable in the fight against the genocidal group. They all know that Iran has already played a crucial role in ending the IS siege against the town of Amerli, liberating Mosul and preventing the terrorist group from marching in Baghdad. Besides, Iran has already displayed its prowess in the fight against such irregular nonstate actors by helping the United States defeat the Taliban back in 2001. Today, Iran's help is badly needed to end the potential humanitarian disaster in Kobani.

In this context, declaring Iran an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States" and renewing a state of emergency against the country for the sake of "routine politics" would be paradoxical and could effectively deprive the United States from the opportunity to work with the most influential actor in the region to normalize the chaotic situation.

Furthermore, the declaration would seem absurd given that US Vice President Joe Biden recently announced that other countries in the region — Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar — have "poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons" into the hands of al-Qaida affiliates, Jabhat al-Nusra and IS without getting as much as a frown from the United States, let alone being formally designated as a "threat" against its national security.

In sum, the unwarranted quasi-automatic renewal of Iran's status this November could be extremely detrimental to the nuclear negotiations and the IS situation in the Middle East. This year, Obama can no longer afford to omit political developments and the geopolitics on the ground before making determinations on the "state of emergency." This November, the renewal can no longer remain "routine."

Key Words: Iran, Emergency State, Nuclear Talks, US Embassy in Tehran, P5+1 Group of Countries, US President Barack Obama, US Congress, ISIS Terrorist Group, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra, Nasri

Source: Shargh Daily
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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*Photo Credit: Press TV

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