JCPOA meets national interest of U.S. and Iran: Barnett Rubin

Barnett Rubin is of the opinion that the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), meets the “the national interest” of Iran and the United states.

“The JCPOA agreement is in the national interest of both the U.S. and Iran,” Rubin, now a senior fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, tells the Tehran Times. The JCPOA, as an international pact that was negotiated in July 2015 between Iran and the six major powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany), went into effect early this year.

Iran has been complaining that that the pace of removing financial and economic sanctions under the deal has been slow. Some major banks are still hesitant to do transactions with Iran, fearing punishment by the U.S. Treasury. Some hardliners in the Congress have been trying to kill the deal. Even Donald Trump has promised to tear apart the deal if he wins the American presidential election. However, Rubin notes, “I am confident that both sides will continue to try to implement it, despite all the difficulties and mistrust.”

This is the text of the interview:

What is your prediction about the future of the JCPOA?

BR: There are powerful groups in both the United States and Iran who do not want this agreement to succeed. Specifically, they do not want the JCPOA to lead to a further relaxation of tensions or cooperation between the two countries. Those groups do their best to find evidence that the other side is cheating or taking advantage of the agreement. They can also use their positions in the state or legislative branch (Congress/Majles) to undermine the agreement. I know that Iran is not satisfied with the tempo of implementation of sanctions relief, and that the Supreme Leader has charged the United States with deceitful practices in negotiation. 

I also know those in the U.S. government who are responsible for implementation of the agreement, and they are sincerely trying to implement it. As you may know they have been subjected to very heavy criticism here by opponents of the agreement.

Nonetheless, objectively the JCPOA agreement is in the national interest of both the U.S. and Iran. I am confident that both sides will continue to try to implement it, despite all the difficulties and mistrust.

Do you think the next U.S. president will be committed to the JCPOA?

BR: It is most likely that the next president of the U.S. will be Hillary Clinton, who started the secret talks with Iran in Oman. Her senior foreign policy advisor, Jake Sullivan, was on the U.S. negotiating team. In addition, if the Democratic Party is in a stronger position in both houses of Congress, so the president will be under less pressure. The potential difficulty is that in public statements Secretary Clinton has advocated tougher sanctions against Iran over ballistic missiles and (alleged) support for terrorism. If she introduces such legislation, it will pass. Of course unless Iran does something dramatic and new, the UN Security Council will not agree to such sanctions, but given the international role of the U.S. dollar in financial transactions, U.S. unilateral sanctions can be effective. In addition, there appears to be support in Congress for such additional sanctions, and the right-wing pro-Israel lobby as well as Saudi Arabia are likely to support such sanctions. (Note that there is a liberal-left pro-Israel lobby which is growing and which supported the JCPOA, as do most of the security experts in Israel.) The U.S. will argue that sanctions over issues other than the nuclear program are not affected by the agreement, and Iran will argue that such sanctions show that the U.S. is not sincere and is at best not acting in the spirit of the JCPOA. That increases the risk to the JCPOA, but even in this case it may be possible to preserve it. There would, however, be no relaxation of tension between the two countries beyond the JCPOA.

If the next U.S. president violate the JCPOA, will its allies support it? A: No. And if the U.S. enacts new sanctions, unless Iran does something new and threatening, they will not support the new sanctions either.

BR: No. And if the U.S. enacts new sanctions, unless Iran does something new and threatening, they will not support the new sanctions either.

This interview was originally published by the Tehran Times on August 23, 2016

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Aug 24, 2016
Barnett Rubin
Middle East, United States