Iranian Diplomacy | Mohammad Zaeri Amirani: After Donald Trump took office in 2016, as had promised during his election campaigns, he violated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) shortened as Iran nuclear agreement and withdrew from that and called for negotiations for a new deal.
US withdrawal was illegal since a committee was foreseen in the agreement for the parties to refer to in case of any disputes. Unfortunately, Donald Trump, disregarding the committee, unilaterally withdrew from the deal.
US has not only withdrew from the deal, but has also attempted to force others to follow suit through economic and political pressures. Unilateral coercive measures, illegal sanctions and the cruelest economic terrorism against Iran to achieve illegal political goals are the greatest threat against sustainable development in the Middle East. This has been an impediment to international cooperation and regional bilateral initiatives and will ultimately lead to instability in the region.
However, China and Russia have remained committed to the deal and did not partake in the sanctions. The Europeans have also remained in the deal since all fifteen reports issued by IAEA approved Iran’s compliance to the JCPOA.
Despite these facts, US withdrew from the deal and by adopting an oppressive maximum pressure policy towards Iran -on the assumption that maximum political and economic pressure would return Iran to the negotiating table- imposed the toughest sanctions and embarked upon economic terrorism against the Iranian people.
If Trump pursues maximum pressure scenario and his current course of action, contrary to the international norms and UN Security Council resolution 2231, it means Washington is not sincere in its claims for dialogue and negotiation with Iran and is deceiving the international community. The implications would be disastrous and will sow the seeds of hatred, hostility and unrest in the region.
A basic reset of approach by US can lead to a solution to ease the tensions in the region; yet there are a number of factors which need to be addressed.
The first and major factor is that no unified voice is heard from US officials. The views of some key US policymakers are different from president’s own views. For example, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Former National Security Advisor John Bolton have advocated a military confrontation and regime change in Iran. Furthermore, the significant role that Israel and some regional countries are playing in shaping the Trump administration’s Middle East policy needs to be considered. They are trying to intensify hostilities between Iran and US.
During the past weeks and amid intensive international endeavors, Israel launched air strikes on Hashd al- Shaabi facilities in Iraq, bombarded military bases in Syria -on the pretext of presence of Iranian forces, and attacked southern Lebanon to create new crises to forestall diplomatic attempts by Iran and Europe to de-escalate the tensions in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region.
Secondly, it is clear that Trump administration cannot come up with a “better deal” in the remaining one and a half years of its term, given the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in 2015 was the product of 12 years of intensive negotiations by senior diplomats and a number of nuclear scientists.
Supposedly, even if Iran and the United States were indeed to return to the negotiating table, there are no guarantees the Trump administration, or their successor, would hold up their part of the bargain.
The third challenge to a successful negotiation is Trump’s insistence on following failed strategies and going against the diplomatic grain. His decision to sanction Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif essentially sank any chances of constructive negotiation with Iran.
Ultimately, it is needless to mention that the Trump administration is deeply unfamiliar with the structure of Iran’s politics, culture and society. Iran is a proud country that cherishes its history as a civilization stretching back millennia. It is allergic to any policy it perceives as undermining its achievements. Iran’s approach toward negotiation is not passive and will hold talks on the basis of equality and in a dignified manner.
Fortunately, there is a meaningful engagement and international trend against this US illegitimate action taken by various countries whose governments are committed to combating US unilateralism and dominance in the global order.
* Mohammad Zaeri Amirani is Iran’s ambassador to Sri Lanka.