The Iran Project

Pillar: Iran could negotiate if US fulfills JCPOA obligations

Iranian Diplomacy- “The damaging consequences of abrogating commitments undertaken in the JCPOA would take several forms. Chiefly this is an issue of U.S. credibility. That credibility would be damaged.”

Citing a diplomatic source in Germany, Reuters reported on 28 February that “European and US officials are planning to meet in Berlin in March for talks on Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.”

Previously, The New York Times had reported that European countries had agreed to safeguard the JCPOA, not by amending it, but by reaching a separate agreement. The paper wrote that Europe had agreed on three issues: 1) Requiring Iran to negotiate its missile program; 2) Guaranteeing unrestricted access to Iranian military installations; 3) Extending the expiration date for the JCPOA sunset clauses.

Persia Digest has conducted an interview with Paul Pillar on the latest developments in the 2015 JCPOA agreement.

You can read the interview here:

Does the EU giving in to Trump’s illegal and illegitimate demands (since they go against the JCPOA agreement, and the IAEA has already confirmed Iran’s commitment to its obligations under the deal nine times) an indication of the unipolar system in the world? Why does Europe align itself with Trump?

The Europeans are feeling in a bind on this issue. They certainly want to preserve the JCPOA, but they also do not want to ruin relations with the United States. None of the European governments involved want to align with Trump, but the importance of their ties with the United States goes far beyond Trump. It is still unclear just how far the Europeans are willing to go to placate Trump. They are aware of the hazard, given Trump’s inconsistency and unpredictability, of trying to meet him halfway only to have him renege on whatever understanding was reached.  They also are aware of the hazard of fatally damaging the JCPOA in an effort to save the agreement.

How will this European shrinking away affect international security agreements, disarmament, and basically any multilateral negotiations?

Any backing out of the JCPOA, whether by the Europeans or by anyone else, would cause damage to all of those things. That is another reality about which European leaders are fully aware, and another reason they will try hard to preserve the JCPOA.

How can negotiations on other issues be conducted logically with a party who abrogates its commitments? Does the approach taken by Trump and Europe – a type of reminder of the law of the jungle where the strong are victorious and the weak are trampled on – not provide more reason for countries like North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons?

The damaging consequences of abrogating commitments undertaken in the JCPOA would take several forms. Chiefly this is an issue of U.S. credibility. That credibility would be damaged, making other countries less willing to reach agreements with the United States on potentially a wide variety of topics, not just nuclear matters. The North Korean problem is one of the most significant immediate issues that would be affected. There already was hesitation by the North Korean regime to negotiate anything about its nuclear program, having observed what happened to Qadhafi in Libya after he had reached agreement with Britain and the U.S. to end his unconventional weapons programs. Any backing away from the JCPOA would make North Korea all the more disinclined to negotiate.

Certain sources believe that, as in the nuclear disarmament of Libya, the US is seeking to weaken Iran’s defense program (missile program) and regional influence, providing the grounds for a military strike and a hard regime change in the country. In this case, why should Iran enter into negotiations on its missile program and its regional influence?

It is not yet clear that the Trump administration would go so far as to initiate a war against Iran. It is safe to assume that this administration will remain strongly hostile to Iran, but that hostility may continue to be confined to forms other than a direct military attack. To the extent that a U.S. armed attack does appear plausible, that is all the more reason for Iran not to want to negotiate about anything, such as its missiles, that might entail weakening its military posture, even though Iranian missiles are mainly designed for use against targets other than U.S. targets. The biggest influence on Iranian willingness or unwillingness to negotiate about any new topics will be whether the United States fulfills its obligations under the agreement already reached, which is to say the JCPOA.

Do you think the US is pursuing a planned, consolidated policy towards Iran? If so, do you believe Trump’s approach is in line with Obama’s policies, or do you think Trump is pursuing a different policy from Obama towards Iran?

About the only consistent strand in Trump’s policies, both foreign and domestic, is to try to do whatever is the opposite of what Obama did. That is the main reason Trump voices such opposition to the JCPOA. Of course this means great inconsistency in U.S. policy over time, but Trump does not seem to care about that.

Paul R Pillar is an academic and 28-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), serving from 1977 to 2005, including as Executive Assistant to the Director. He is now a non-resident senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies, as well as a nonresident senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence. He was a visiting professor at Georgetown University from 2005 to 2012. He is a contributor to The National Interest.

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