Iran P5+1 Nuclear Deal

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Interview with Professor Nader Entessar
By: Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Ph.D.

Afrasiabi: What is your impression of the nuclear deal?

Entessar: Overall, I was pleased that a nuclear deal, albeit a temporary one, was signed. I think it is more symbolic than substantive, but symbolism is important here given the acrimonious relations between Iran and the United States. We just have to see what will transpire in the next six months or so.  The real substantive work is still ahead of us. Iran may have given up more than it should have given up at this stage, but in any negotiation one must engage in a game of give-and-take. I would have liked to have had a clearer statement on Iran's right of enrichment. Secretary Kerry has already started waffling on this issue by claiming that the U.S. has not recognized Iran's right to enrich uranium. Also, by agreeing to freeze some of its nuclear activity during the duration of the agreement, it may be difficult to go back to the status quo ante. Once you freeze something, it is going to be a lot more difficult, especially politically, to unfreeze it.

Afrasiabi: Do you think this deal will survive the avalanche of political backlashes in US?

Entessar: This is a very good question. The opponents of the deal in the United States, especially those in Congress, have gone on the offensive, using such terms as "appeasement," "sell-out," and "nuclear Munich" against the deal. They disingenuously claim that the deal is disproportionately in favor of Iran (which it is not).  It is up to President Obama to stand up to the extremists in Congress, some of whom are the members of his own political party. We just have to see if President Obama can muster enough leadership skills in this matter.

Afrasiabi:  What are the non-nuclear implications of this deal?

Entessar: The non-nuclear implications of the deal are mostly symbolic rather than substantive. The amount of Iranian funds that are going to be unfrozen constitute a small part of Iran's assets in foreign countries. The overwhelming part of the sanctions, both unilateral and multilateral, will remain in force.   

Afrasiabi: There is a school of thought that this is the beginning of a US-Iran detente? Do you agree?

Entessar: In my opinion, it is too early to conclude that the agreement has augured a new chapter in US-Iran relations. The agreement is not comparable to signing of the Shanghai Communique following Nixon's trip to Shanghai. The wall of mistrust between the U.S. and Iran is rather high, and domestic, regional and international obstacles are still formidable. The agreement is an important first step, but it must be followed by a quick succession of meaningful and concrete steps to approach the early stages of detente between the two countries.

Afrasiabi:  How difficult is it to telescope this interim agreement to a final resolution of the nuclear crisis?

Entessar: Most of the difficult steps are still ahead of us. I have no illusion that the nuclear crisis can be resolved in a few months.  The United States still publicly claims that its goal is total, or near total, dismantling of Iran's nuclear capability. If that is Washington's goal, then we may be pushed back to point zero of US-Iran ties.

Afrasiabi: Are you optimistic about the durability and effectiveness of this agreement?

Entessar: If the U.S. Congress plays an obstructionist role, as it has been doing for years, then the durability of the agreement will be in serious jeopardy. I think Iran will hold its part of the bargain as long as the U.S. and the EU adhere to their obligations. If the West starts posturing and backtracking, I can see the deal unraveling.

*Nader Entessar is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of South Alabama.  He has authored numerous books, book chapters on Iran's foreign policy.  His most recent publication is Iran's Northern Exposure: Foreign Policy Challenges in Eurasia (Georgetown University, 2013).

Key Words: Iran, P5+1, Nuclear Deal, US, Congress, US-Iran Ties, EU, Entessar

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