The Nuclear Agreement Will Be Passed by the United States in the End

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Iran Review’s Exclusive Interview with Ronald E. Neumann
By: Kourosh Ziabari

As Iran and the group of six major powers finally nailed down an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program and decided to draw an end to some 12 years of continued and at times interrupted negotiations on this contentious case, debate is heating up regarding the endorsement of the deal – known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – by the US Congress and the outcomes of its implementation.

It’s widely speculated that the implementation of the nuclear deal will melt the ice of diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States and pave the way for further cooperation between the two nations, since talks to conclude this accord marked the first occasions on which top diplomats from Iran and the United States sat at the negotiation table after nearly four decades of the absence of any diplomatic contact and conferred several times in lengthy sessions.

Although Tehran and Washington continue to have differences on a number of issues, the nuclear negotiations, pioneered by President Hassan Rouhani since his election in June 2013, proved that diplomacy and talks on the basis of mutual respect can eliminate even the most insurmountable tensions and hurdles.

The President of the American Academy of Diplomacy and former US Ambassador to Afghanistan and Bahrain says it’s important for Iran and the United States to fully honor their commitments, so that one might hope for the reconciliation and coming together of the two countries in the future. Citing the domestic politics of the United States, he notes that despite the internal clashes between the Democrats and Republicans, the United States will eventually ratify and approve the agreement.

Amb. Ronald E. Neumann, who served in 1973 in the northwest Iranian city of Tabriz as a US diplomat, took part in a brief Q&A session with Iran Review and responded to some questions about the nuclear agreement and how it shapes the future of Iran-U.S. relations. The following is the text of our interview with Amb. Ronald E. Neumann.

Q: How much can the recently-concluded nuclear accord between Iran and the six world powers narrow the differences keeping Iran and the United States away from each other? Is it going to serve as a basis for engagement and cooperation on other areas of mutual concern, including the security of Iraq and Afghanistan, the crisis in Syria and violent extremism arising from the atrocities of the Islamic State?

A: I suspect that the agreement will not narrow differences very much. There are many difficult issues of the past between the two nations. Each has strong political opposition to trusting or working with the other. There are real and serious differences including over Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran’s position in the [Persian] Gulf. There will be room for limited cooperation, for example in Afghanistan. I do not expect this to become general although if we find more areas to work together each side may gain the reassurance to expand areas of cooperation.

Q: It sounds like President Barack Obama and Secretary John Kerry are facing a difficult job convincing the Congressmen to give a green light to the nuclear deal. Do you believe that Mr. President’s public diplomacy efforts and his appeal to the supporters of deal will pay off and result in the Congress being compelled to vote in favor of the deal?

A: The issue is now part of partisan politics. Many Republicans believe they can be in opposition and it won’t matter because the President will be able to sustain his veto. This is an irresponsible position, but that’s politics. I do believe that the agreement will be passed by the United States in the end.

Q: You surely look at the diplomatic ramifications of the Iran deal, and tens of prominent diplomats and politicians have hailed this agreement as a victory for peace and diplomacy. Can this nuclear deal serve as a milestone for solving the major regional and international problems through negotiations and diplomatic efforts, rather than armed conflict or the use of force?

A: It is an important agreement. It took years to negotiate, required intense pressure, had to deal with serious opposition within Iran and the United States and, in the end concessions from all parties. I do not expect that series of events will happen very often.

Q: How do you see the future of Iran-US relations following the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action? What steps should Iran and the United States take so that other concerns affecting both sides, including terrorism and extremism, could be addressed at the same time as the final settlement of the nuclear issue, which is said will be taken off the UN Security Council’s agenda after 8 years?

A: The important thing is for everyone, including the US and Iran to honor fully their commitments under the agreement. If trust is established over time, more may be possible. I hope so. I served in Iran many years ago. I would like to see our two countries become friends once again.

Key Words: Iran, Nuclear Agreement, United States, Congress, Hassan Rouhani, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Reconciliation, Democrats, Republicans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, ISIS, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Terrorism, Extremism, Neumann