Asefi: Iran squeezed maximum concessions from nuclear talks

Iran Daily- More than two years have passed since Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, clinched a historic nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iran and the major world powers which signed the accord on July 14, 2015, started implementing it on January 16, 2016.

Under the agreement, limits were put on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for, among other things, the removal of all nuclear-related sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The UN Security Council later unanimously endorsed a resolution that effectively turned the JCPOA into international law.

However, US President Donald Trump has called the agreement “a very bad” deal, and during his presidential campaign he even threatened to rip it up.

Washington has prevented the nuclear deal from fully yielding the intended results by refusing to offer international financial institutions the guarantees they need in order to restore transactions with the Islamic Republic.

Hamid-Reza Asefi, who served as Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman for eight years and served as the Islamic Republic’s ambassador to several countries, had an interview with to share his ideas about the JCPOA and its results as well as Washington’s adverse impact on the deal.

Excerpts of the interview follow:


What achievements has the JCPOA brought for Iran?

All deals like the JCPOA are the result of talks between sides which seek to secure their interests. In such talks all sides make efforts to squeeze concessions. If one side wants to win complete concessions, such negotiations would be doomed to failure. This approach can help us pass better judgment on the JCPOA.

Talks over the Iran nuclear deal had a major difference with other agreements. The JCPOA was a sort of multilateral negotiation between Tehran and other parties that did not have convergent views. For example, the US and Russia had conflicting opinions. Germany and France also had different views. This made the talks a bit complicated. In such an atmosphere all sides can say they have emerged victorious.
Then US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the JCPOA had the best achievements for his country. This was because Americans wanted to convey the message that they have extracted concessions from Iran. The Islamic Republic also described the negotiations as a big achievement for itself.

The JCPOA was a necessity. When there is a necessity, you have to make concessions. The US also offered concessions.
Iran held similar talks with major world powers 12 years ago but those negotiations did not lead to clinching a deal. However, the 2015 talks bore fruit which has many reasons. One reason pertains to diplomacy, and others are linked to the capabilities of the Iranian negotiating team.

The talks were so vital for Washington that Kerry attended the negotiations in Vienna while he had broken a leg.


Do you think the negotiations which were conducted 12 years ago were a prelude to clinching the JCPOA?

Of course. A number of reasons helped Iran clinch the JCPOA, one of which was a necessity to reach the deal, while all sides also felt the necessity. The Islamic Republic’s capabilities and diplomacy are among other reasons.

Some political groups have thrown their weight behind the deal while others have totally opposed it.

If we agree on the fact that the JCPOA was a necessity, it would be unfair to slam it.

High expectations from the deal also sparked harsh criticisms toward the agreement.


The JCPOA was expected to result in the full removal of non-nuclear sanctions. Have these sanctions been lifted?

Many of these sanctions have been lifted and some others have not.

The United States did not sign the JCPOA to help Iran make advancements. Washington rather inked the deal to prevent Tehran from achieving what it calls “nuclear weapons.”

If Washington lifts nuclear-related sanctions it imposes other anti-Iran penalties under the pretext of human rights issue or Tehran’s alleged support for terrorism.

Americans have also taken big banks as hostage to prevent them from boosting transactions with the Islamic Republic.

I do not think major banks will establish ties with Iran in the short run.


Proponents of the JCPOA say sanctions pertaining to oil, gas, financial and banking sectors have been lifted after the deal’s implementation. But the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) targets Iran’s oil industry. Do you believe that ISA’s approval has led to the breach of the JCPOA?

The US has been violating the deal since it was signed. But the agreement has created a better international ambience, which encouraged France’s energy giant Total to sign a major deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

European nations as well as Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan have boosted their cooperation with Tehran in the post JCPOA era. Such facts cannot be denied.


Your remarks indicate that Iran’s status has been promoted and the country has not suffered a setback. Is that correct?

Surely. Iran’s banking ties with international banks have been promoted and investors are more willing to invest in the Islamic Republic. Tourism has seen a significant growth while attempts to spread Iranophobia have failed.


How will the Trump administration deal with the JCPOA as it has been seeking to adopt measures against the deal?

The Trump administration will not scrap the deal. However, it will undermine the JCPOA and implement the accord in a tough manner. In other words, they will try to exert pressure on Iran under the pretext of violating human rights and Tehran’s alleged support for terrorism.


Do you think we would have been able to squeeze more concessions from the US because of advancements in our nuclear industry?

Iran’s negotiating team extracted maximum concessions. Once again, I will reiterate that the JCPOA was a necessity, and the deal must have been reached.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei urged ‘heroic flexibility’ as the Iranian negotiating team was involved in talks with the major world powers under the incumbent government.

The leader did not make such remarks 12 years ago because he did not find it expedient, as our nuclear capabilities were not adequate to invigorate the nuclear negotiating team in the talks.

The leader called for ‘heroic flexibility’ because he knew that Iran had 20,000 centrifuges and a greater nuclear capability compared with the past. Hence Ayatollah Khamenei was speaking with authority.