US Withdrawal from JCPOA Will Create Tensions in Relations with EU

02 October 2017 | 21:49 Code : 1972176 Middle East. Europe America Middle East General category
By Robert Jervis.
US Withdrawal from JCPOA Will Create Tensions in Relations with EU

Robert Jervis is the Professor of international relations at Columbia University, and the former chief of the US Political Sciences Association. In an interview with Persia Digest about the Iran JCPOA nuclear deal, he said: ‘If the US pulls out of the Iran nuclear deal, it will create tensions in US-EU relations. None of Trump’s advisors want this; his preferences change with some frequency.


Donald Trump intends to announce his decision on the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement by October 15th. Many experts believe he will not confirm Iran's compliance with the agreement this time. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has already confirmed Iran’s compliance with the deal seven times. The US President adopted a tough stance against Iran’s regime when he addressed the UN General Assembly recently. The co-signatories of the deal, namely the EU, China, and Russia want to stay in the agreement. The Iranian side has also rejected the possibility of re-negotiations.


So, has a turn of events prompted the US President to criticize the JCPOA agreement and demand its cancellation? Professor Robert Jervis of Columbia University spoke about this with Persia Digest: ‘I endorsed the nuclear agreement when it was signed, and nothing that has happened since has changed my mind. As Trump himself has said, Iran is living up to the letter of the agreement. There are some grounds for his saying that it has violated the spirit, but of course that is permitted, and the US has clearly violated its spirit as well.’


Nevertheless, it seems Trump has made a firm decision to destroy a multilateral agreement at any cost. In recent weeks, there were also reports that Trump intends to declare Iran in breach of the agreement and re-impose sanctions against the country. In effect, he is seeking to refer a US exit out of the accord to the US Congress. Many believe that a Republican majority in the Congress is in consensus with Trump and will take a stand in favor of a US exit out of the deal. But, Professor Jervis is not convinced. He told Persia Digest: ‘Although a majority of Senators objected to the bargain when it was signed, it is not quite as clear that they would actually vote to re-impose sanctions if Trump refuses to certify that Iran is in compliance. They know that this time it would have real consequences, and probably hope that they can avoid taking a stand.’


What will happen if Congress approves to nullify the deal? The Iranian Foreign Minister speaks of staying in the deal even without the US, provided the other co-signatories remain committed to their obligations. Yet, If the US nullifies the agreement, sanctions will inevitably be re-imposed against Iran. It is possible that many non-US banks and companies will refuse to cooperate with Iran for fear of US punitive measures. How will this impact Iran and to what extent will staying in the deal be beneficial to it?


On this, Professor Jervis says: ‘If the Senate does vote to restore sanctions, the crucial question is whether these will “only” involve direct sanctions against Iran, which would be more than annoying but less than greatly disruptive, or whether the US would extend secondary sanctions to countries and banks that trade with Iran and have financial dealings with it.’


He reiterates: ‘This would of course have severe consequences for the Iranian economy, but also would create a crisis in relations between the US and Europe.’


He reminds us: ‘None of Trump’s advisors want this; it is hard to know what Trump himself believes, and I think his preferences change with some frequency.’


However, it is still important to ask why President Trump is against Iran. the US President said Iran was fighting terrorism in his campaign; but now, he claims that Iran supports terrorism.


Has President Trump misperceived Iran and its objectives, or does he make his decisions based on well-informed strategic policies? Professor Jervis tells Persia Digest: ‘I don’t see Trump’s anti-Iranian policy as the result either of deep thought or of the machinations of hidden forces. Trump believes that every bargain made by his predecessor was bad. This is foolish, but it represents the sort of shallow and instinctive thinking that characterizes him.’


Foolish or well-informed, what matters are the consequences of the decisions made by the US President. A decision that can bring peace and security to the world by respecting rationality and multilateral agreements, or undermine confidence in diplomacy and negotiations through irrationality and obstinacy, creating a new crisis in the world. Which one will Trump choose?


* This piece was originally published in Persia Digest.

tags: iran trump professor persia