MNA – Richard Nephew, who served as the lead sanctions expert for the US negotiating team with Iran, is of the opinion that new US sanctions on Iran will not fulfill US national interests in long term.
“The fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, says, “I think that the best long-term interest for the United States was remaining in the JCPOA and using it as a mechanism for pursuing direct diplomacy between the United States and Iran.”
Following is the text of the interview:
As announced before, US returned all nuclear sanctions against Iran. Do you think that these sanctions are according to US national interests in long term?
No, I don’t. As I’ve said repeatedly, I think that the best long-term interest for the United States was remaining in the JCPOA and using it as a mechanism for pursuing direct diplomacy between the United States and Iran.
The failure of the Trump Administration to take advantage of this opportunity is not in the long term interest of the United States, nor is it in the US interest to misuse sanctions in this fashion.
US exempt 8 countries temporary from importing of Iran’s oil. Do you think these countries can replace other recourses instead of oil of Iran?
Sure, I think they must have, if they’ve been able to make the cuts. But, these initial cuts have required pretty high oil production out of OPEC and other countries. It is not clear to me at all — and I am deeply skeptical that — further reductions can be achieved without directly contributing to oil price increases or shortfalls.
The Secretary of US Department of Treasury Steven Mnuchin has announced that Washington wants the world-wide payment network to cut off its services to the entities that were affected by Iran sanctions and warned that otherwise SWIFT might be sanctioned as well. Can US do it?
Yes, the United States could do it. But, I think the United States will avoid doing so for the simple reason that it gets much out of the existence of the SWIFT network and would not wish it to be undermined unduly.
If Iran cannot export oil and cannot work by SWIFT, what means JCPOA for it? I mean if US can impose their will on these two key issues for Iran, is it rational for Iran stay in JCPOA? What is the EU and Russia and China in this regard?
I hope that Iran will stay within the JCPOA because I think adding to the sense of crisis in the Middle East is contrary to its long-term interests. I also think that Iran would gain nothing economically from restarting its uranium centrifuge R&D program, adding thousands of new centrifuges to operations, and similar post-JCPOA steps.
I think that Iran will find it hard due to domestic politics, however, to manage the tensions that continued nuclear abstinence will bring.
The EU has been clear that it will try to salvage the JCPOA so long as Iran is operating within its strictures. If not, then they too may join the US sanctions campaign. Russia and China will continue to resist the US decision here, but do not have the sort of economic weight that — at least in the near-term — will satisfy Iran.