US Benefits If It Pushes Arabs to Give Up Support for Extremists

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tehran Times Exclusive Interview with Farhang Jahanpour
By: Javad Heirannia

Professor Farhang Jahanpour calls on the United States to put pressure on some of those Persian Gulf Arab states that support terrorism to stop such an action and form a front against violence, saying such a move will benefit Washington.

“It would be beneficial if the U.S. could push Persian Gulf Arab states to give up their support for extremists and to form a united front against violence and chaos in the region,” Jahanpour, a former Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University, tells the Tehran Times.

The interview with Jahanpour also focused on Republican congressmen who are opposed to the nuclear deal between Iran and the United States. Jahanpour said Europe won’t bow to a possible anti-Iran resolution by Congress.

Jahanpour, a current member of Kellogg College (University of Oxford), said, “A positive vote for the deal would greatly strengthen the Administration’s hand and would be to America’s best interest.”

This is the text of the interview:

Q: The U.S. Congress is studying the nuclear deal with Iran, with many senators and congressmen still opposed to the deal. When will the Senate vote on the deal and how do you think the voting will go?

A: Congress must vote on the deal by Sept. 17. Therefore, when Congress returns from the summer recess on 8th September, the real heated debates about the deal will start. Given the strong opposition of most Republicans and some Democrats to the deal, it is likely that the motion to oppose the agreement will receive a majority of votes.

The Senators must gather 60 votes to move the resolution forward under Senate procedural rules. If they can, they will then need a simple majority of 51 votes to approve the resolution. It will pass, because Republicans control a majority of Senate seats and most have already come out against the agreement. The resolution rejecting the deal is also expected to easily win approval in the House. The Republicans hold 246 seats in the 435-seat House. Therefore, it seems certain that the resolution rejecting the deal will also pass easily in the House.

If both chambers approve the resolution, it will go to President Obama's desk for review. He has vowed to veto it. However, in recent days 34 Senators have confirmed that they would support the deal and would vote against the resolution that opposes it. This means that the Senate will not have enough votes to override a presidential veto. This is a great victory for President Obama in the face of stiff opposition by Republican Senators and by the pro-Israeli lobby. Furthermore, he needs 41 votes in the Senate to win the vote outright. Therefore, if he can get only another six more Democrats or Independents to support the deal, he would avoid the embarrassment of having to use his veto. A positive vote for the deal would greatly strengthen the Administration’s hand and would be to America’s best interest.

Q: What will be the effect of Congress’s rejection of the deal, and will it make much difference in its implementation?

A: If Congress rejects the deal, it will certainly be an embarrassment for the U.S. Administration, because it has staked its reputation on getting the deal through. However, it will not have much effect on the overall outcome of the negotiations, because Iran was not negotiating only with the United States but with the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany) and all those countries have expressed strong support for the deal. Indeed the entire European Union, plus China and Russia, have supported the deal. Above all, the Security Council has already passed a resolution rescinding the earlier resolutions that imposed sanctions on Iran, and it has recognized Iran’s right to enrichment for peaceful purposes. Europe won’t bow to an anti-Iran resolution by the U.S. Congress. In fact, many countries have already sent large political and economic delegations to Tehran and are ready to resume strong relations with Iran. The British foreign minister also visited Tehran and the two countries reopened their embassies in each other’s capitals.

Therefore, all a Congressional rejection of the deal would do is to isolate the United States and deprive U.S. businessmen from doing lucrative deals with Iran. However, apart from its commercial and economic ramifications, the rejection of the deal would portray America as a country that is not interested in resolving disputes through diplomacy and negotiations and it would not enhance America’s reputation. The fact that a deal reached with the U.S. Administration cannot be relied upon will also damage U.S. standing in the world and will make it harder for it to deal with other countries.

I hope that Congress will look at the bigger picture and will support the deal, because it would be in the overall interest of the United States and peace and security in the Middle East to do so. Many leading former Senators and Congressmen, including Republican Senator Richard Lugar and Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, many former statesmen, ambassadors and diplomats, including Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, many academics, generals and admirals, as well as many leading Iranian peace activists have strongly supported the deal.

It would be unfortunate, if in search of an illusive perfect deal, Congress would reject an outstanding deal that provides a win-win opportunity to both sides. They should realize that under the NPT Iran is entitled to peaceful use of nuclear energy, so by approving the deal they are not doing a special favour to Iran, but merely recognizing her rights as a member of the NPT. They should also think of the negative consequences of the rejection of the deal for the region and for Iran-U.S. relations.

Q: Therefore, when do you expect the deal to come into effect and when will the sanctions be lifted?

A: The implementation of the deal is 90 days after the UN Security Council approval, which would be in early October. However, it is also dependent on the IAEA confirming that Iran has carried out certain steps that she was committed to take, including the clarification of Iran’s past and present nuclear activities. According to paragraph 14 of the JCPOA's Annex V: “Implementation Day will occur upon the IAEA-verified implementation by Iran of the nuclear-related measures described in paragraph 15 below, and, simultaneously, the E3/EU+3 taking the actions described in paragraphs 16 and 17 below, and with the actions described in paragraph 18 below taking place at the UN level in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution.”

After visiting Iran and talking to senior nuclear officials, on 25 August IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said that he would present his final assessment to the IAEA Board of Governors by 15 December. Assuming that his assessment is positive, his report should be approved by a two-thirds majority of the 35 members of the IAEA’s Board of Governors. After that, there are no more steps that should be taken before the implementation of the deal. Therefore, it is possible that the deal could come into effect before the end of December 2015.

Q: What will be the effect of the nuclear agreement on Iran's regional status?

A: In my opinion, the effect will be positive, because the agreement will remove the possibility of another major conflict in the Middle East that would be disastrous for all the regional states. At the moment, the entire Middle East is in turmoil, and restoring peace and security to the region and especially fighting against the scourge of ISIS terrorism requires the cooperation of all the regional states.

There seem to be some moves afoot by the Russian President Vladimir Putin to form a security belt, including Russia, Iran, Egypt and Syria against ISIS. It would be in Turkey’s interest too to join that coalition. The Saudi king is visiting the United States and holding talks with President Obama. He is still somewhat hesitant in supporting the deal and allegedly he is going to ask for tough supervision of the deal. However, it would be in the interest of Saudi Arabia and the entire Persian Gulf Cooperation Council to also join collective efforts to fight against terrorism and extremism and try to resolve the crises in Syria and Yemen through talks and negotiations.

Q: Is there any possibility of new alignments including Saudi Arabia and Turkey in the region in the post nuclear agreement era?

A: Although Turkey has very close relations with Iran, the two countries differ in their approach towards a number of regional issues, including the crisis in Syria. Saudi Arabia and Turkey support different Sunni groups in the Middle East. While Saudi Arabia supports the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Turkey supported the Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi. Both countries are opposed to President Bashar Assad in Syria, but they do not see eye-to-eye about what should follow him.

In view of the very critical situation in the Middle East, regional leaders should show great statesmanship by coming together and finding a new security structure for the Middle East, which would involve a joint campaign against terrorism, safeguarding the territorial integrity of all the countries in the Middle East and new power-sharing formulas based on elections and federal structures.

After having successfully concluded the nuclear standoff with the West, this is a task that requires the urgent attention of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Iran has repeatedly said that it wishes to improve relations with its neighbours. It is now the time to put that wish into practice and to establish a new cooperative security arrangement in the Middle East. Dr Zarif has been visiting a number of regional countries, and presumably he is trying to push for a collective response to the turmoil in the Middle East.

Q: Will the U.S. pivot towards Asia and away from the Middle East, particularly from the Persian Gulf, affect its relations with its regional allies? If such a pivot is going to happen, how will the power vacuum in the region be filled?

A: While for a number of geostrategic reasons, the United States is paying great attention to the Far East, it is unlikely that she would lower her commitments and her interest in the Middle East. The Middle East is still the pivot of the world and with all the conflicts that are going on there and the effect that they have on the rest of the world, and the refugee crisis in Europe which provides a good example, the United States cannot be disengaged from the Middle East.

The U.S. Administration is already talking of strengthening the defences of PGCC countries and selling them more arms. It would be beneficial if she could also push them to give up their support for extremists and terrorists and to form a united front against violence and chaos in the region. A serious conflict in the Middle East could quickly spread to other countries and create an uncontrollable conflagration.

Source: Tehran Times

More By Farhang Jahanpour:

*A Mutually Acceptable Nuclear Deal Entails Compromises by Iran and West:

*Congress Can’t Go against World to Annul a Deal with Iran:

*Iran – P5+1 Deal: Positive Steps But Hawks Try to Derail It:

*Photo Credit: Jericho Walls

*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.

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