Trump’s withdrawal from JCPOA to harm US Int’l credibility: Ex-Iranian negotiator

Tasnim – Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian nuclear negotiator, said US potential withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers would undermine Washington’s international credibility and global status.

“US withdrawal will also strongly harm America’s international credibility and affect its ability to position itself as a global power and negotiate any deals of any kind with other countries such as North Korea,” Mousavian told the Tasnim news agency.

Seyed Hossein Mousavian is an Iranian policymaker and scholar who served on Iran’s nuclear diplomacy team in negotiations with the EU and International Atomic Energy Agency. He currently resides in the United States, where he is a visiting research scholar at Princeton University.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Tasnim: Both on his campaign trail and after the presidential election in early 2017, Trump threatened to “scrap” the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). His administration has ordered a review of the historic accord with Tehran. It seems that Trump is looking for pretexts to scuttle the deal. Reports, however, suggest that he is not after dismantling it and he is just seeking to appease certain people at home. As you know, Trump’s team now faces an Oct. 15 deadline to tell Congress whether it will continue to certify that Iran is complying with the deal. If Trump refuses to certify, Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to re-impose US sanctions on Iran. What is your prediction?

Mousavian: No one knows what Trump’s decision will be for sure. It seems that all of his cabinet advisors, his national security advisor, and the joint chiefs all believe that the US should remain committed to the nuclear deal, but in parallel increase sanctions and pressure on Iran under the umbrella of regional issues. However, Trump’s bottom line is clear: to keep the JCPOA vulnerable and to do the utmost prevent Iran the economic benefits it is due under the deal.

We will see what he reveals in his Iran policy speech scheduled on October 12th. It is possible he will decertify Iranian compliance with the deal, but not push Congress to reimpose US nuclear-related sanctions and instead will pursue actions such as designating the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization. This will have dire consequences if it occurs, both for US national security interests and regional stability. It will put the US and Iran on the path to more confrontation in the region and eliminate any prospects for diplomacy between the two countries on any issue.

Tasnim: According to a recent report, Envoys from the European Union, Germany, France and Britain laid out their arguments, stressing that the deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is working and Iran is complying with the agreement. What is your take on this?

Mousavian: Europe firmly believes that the JCPOA was the result of 12 years of negotiations and that no better deal could be reached for any party by reopening negotiations. Furthermore, the Europeans know that Trump is angry over the deal because US economic benefits under it are peanuts compared to the other P5+1 states. After diplomacy was successful in resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis, the EU has also been eager to work with Iran to peacefully manage other crises in the region such as in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. Notably, European officials have also signaled that they will resist potential U.S. secondary sanctions if the Trump administration withdraws from the JCPOA, which will be key if European-Iranian ties are to continue.

Tasnim: What would be the consequences of a possible US withdrawal from the JCPOA?

Mousavian: A potential US withdrawal from the JCPOA, even if the other P5+1 members remained committed, would severely damage the deal and would have an extremely negative impact on international trade with Iran. Therefore, it should not be accepted by Iran or the other P5+1 members. US withdrawal will also strongly harm America’s international credibility and affect its ability to position itself as a global power and negotiate any deals of any kind with other countries such as North Korea.