John Tirman: Sanctions will not be re-imposed in JCPOA

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


John Tirman, Professor at MIT, says: “I don’t think JCPOA will be destroyed, even with U.S. withdrawal. I don’t think sanctions of the kind that existed before could be re-imposed.” 

Referring to the recent positions of French, British, and German governments on Iran, Bloomberg has written that the Europeans have intensified pressures on Iran for its missile program, hoping to keep the 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement between Iran and the five world powers. An analyzes of the situation by Reuters following the Trump ultimatum on the JCPOA also indicates that European countries signatory to the agreement have begun talks on Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional influence in an effort to safeguard the JCPOA. On the other hand, Deputy for Legal and International Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Abbas Araghchi, has stressed: “We have not had any discussions with any countries about our missile program, nor do we intend to have such discussions.” He has added: “There are those on the Continent who believe they can convince Trump to stay in the deal by agreeing with him on other non-nuclear issues. This idea is totally wrong and will certainly backfire.”

Persia Digest has conducted an interview on the future of the Iran nuclear deal with John Tirman, Executive Director & Principal Research Scientist at MIT Center for International Studies. John Tirman has written numerous articles on US-Iran relations. He has also coedited the book "U.S.-Iran Misperceptions: A Dialogue" with Abbas Maleki. This is his 14th book on global affairs.

You can read the interview here:

Are recent events an indication that European resistance in support of the JCPOA against Trump’s stance is wavering?

Support in Europe for JCPOA appears to be strong. Some may be using Trump to leverage Iran on its missile program, but I doubt that would jeopardize the nuclear deal.

Regional issues and Iran’s missile program are not linked to the JCPOA. In this case, what does imposing EU sanctions against Iran for these two reasons (for Iran’s reluctance to negotiate these two issues) mean? Is Europe making a mistake, as Mr Araghchi has pointed out, and will it backfire?

We don’t know yet if it will backfire, or what “backfire” actually means in this case. Iran has an active military presence in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, for various reasons and at different levels. These activities inevitably attract the attention of the major powers. What will be done about these activities is not yet clear.  

Supposing Iran accepts to negotiate its missile program and regional issues, will this satisfy Trump to stay in the deal? Does this mean that the US can threaten Iran and the world with the JCPOA every time, to impose his own will on Iran from now on?

Trump seems determined to withdraw the U.S. from JCPOA.That was a campaign promise.If he does, Iran would be wise to remain in the agreement with the other signatories, and in that case, Trump has forfeited his leverage. I don’t think sanctions of the kind that existed before could be re-imposed.

In your opinion, if Iran and Europe cannot agree on Iran’s missile program and new sanctions are imposed on Iran by Europe on the one hand, and the US leaves the JCPOA on the other, where is this multilateral agreement headed?

There could be some modest agreement about missiles, in line with U.N. resolutions, for example, in which Iran would reduce range or number of tests.It could come in the form of a communique after a Zarif-Le Drian meeting, for example, rather than a formal negotiation.

More ambitiously, the Europeans would be wise to convene a regional security conference in which all key players, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq, would meet with Iran to resolve some of these issues in a negotiation (which could take years….beyond the current length of the JCPOA).

If the JCPOA is destroyed, what do you predict Iran’s response, and subsequent reactions by Europe and the US will be?

I don’t think JCPOA will be destroyed, even with U.S. withdrawal. But if that comes to pass, much will depend on whether sanctions are renewed. We would return to the period before Rouhani was elected, and any hope for cooperation on Syria and other difficult issues will be lost. Iran would be wise to keep its nuclear program non-threatening, because a robust nuclear program with high levels of enrichment would be the only plausible pretext for war from the U.S. or Israel.



*Source: Persiadigest