The US Congress has shelved a decision on the Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and left it to the US government to decide on that, which suggests there has been some kind of wheeling and dealing going on between Europe and Congress. There are speculations that American lawmakers will approve a deadline for the imposition of sanctions on Iran over the country’s missile issue and regional influence, and not its nuclear issue. The move is unlikely to be opposed by the Europeans.
Two months on since US President Donald Trump made his controversial speech on the JCPOA, US legislators have, so far, failed to reach a consensus on the nuclear deal. The Trump administration and his European allies have not announced any particular policy on that, either, and it could somehow be said that the West has reached a stalemate on how to deal with the JCPOA and Iran. To discuss the issue further, the Persian-language Basirat website has had an interview with senior expert on nuclear issues Siamak Baqeri. The full text of the interview follows.
Basirat: The US Congress’ 60-day deadline for reviewing the JCPOA ended several days ago. Why didn’t the US Congress reach a conclusion on that?
Analyst: Several reasons have contributed to the US Congress’ decision to leave it up to the government to decide on the JCPOA. The reasons mentioned by media include: Democrats in Congress believed that any changes to the JCPOA should be supported by Washington’s European allies. The allies of the US as well as China and Russia officially announced that the White House should abide by the JCPOA. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress were seeking to strike a balance between the viewpoint of Trump and that of Washington’s European allies. US lawmakers were not obliged to make a decision because the White House had not asked for an enactment on slapping JCPOA-related sanctions on Iran. The US Senate arrived at the conclusion that Bob Croker’s plan to bring about the intended reforms had failed to secure the minimum required number of votes in Senate, so the Congress allowed the nuclear deal to remain as it is without any changes until further notice, and decided to return it to the White House.
But are the above-mentioned points all of the reasons behind US legislators’ decision to shelve their decision? The mindset among lawmakers and the organizational structure of Congress as well as its motivation and objective behind the game it has started to withdraw from the JCPOA indicate some other facts, including:
All US congressmen and even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believe that the JCPOA is good, but is not perfect, and something has to be done to remove its shortcomings; so, reforms are necessary, but should not result in the following consequences;
- Moving to reform the JCPOA should not be in such a way that it prompts withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
- Moving to reform the JCPOA should not incur the opposition of Washington’s allies and should not discourage Washington's European allies from aligning themselves with the US in the JCPOA reforms scenario.
- Given the consultations that European officials have with the US Congress and White House officials, American congressmen were assured that the Europeans were ready to cooperate with the US to exert pressure and impose sanctions on Iran over its missile program and the country's influence in West Asia. Accordingly, the French president and foreign minister said after meeting US officials that they were determined to intensify the pressure on Iran through sanctions because of the country's ballistic missile program. The French foreign minister said Iran's hegemonic temptations are an urgent issue and "we will stop that."
Basirat: What is the European Union's final policy vis-à-vis the position of the White House?
Analyst: Although the answer to this question can be worked out through the points already mentioned above, we can say specifically that the Europeans do not want to scuttle the nuclear agreement at this juncture and within the timeframe agreed upon in the deal. Therefore, they were against Trump's position from the very outset when he spoke of reforming or pulling out of the JCPOA. However, the position the Europeans adopted needs to be reviewed and analyzed in its own place. So far, they have just expressed their position just in words and failed to adopt any practical action against Washington's breach of the JCPOA, so much so that Abbas Araqchi expressed dissatisfaction with Europe's inaction and called for Europe's more transparent and more serious position to deal with measures adopted by some countries to undermine and hamper the implementation of the JCPOA. So, it seems the Europeans will take the following steps:
- React, in words, to any policies on withdrawal from the JCPOA
- Continue consultations to prevent the White House from announcing its withdrawal from the JCPOA and persuade US officials to follow up on Iran's missile and regional programs outside the framework of the nuclear deal
- Seek to persuade Iran to sign agreements similar to the JCPOA on regional issues and its missile program
Regarding the points mentioned above, the Europeans are prepared enough to get on board with the US sanctions, and if the situation is ripe, they are motivated enough and are ready to impose some bans on Iran in the above-mentioned fields and outside the JCPOA.
By adopting such a policy, the Europeans are trying to strike a balance between the viewpoints of Congress, the White House and Europe. In their estimation, such a policy coupled with psychological warfare can be effective in such a way that it will serve the interests of both the US and Europe.
Basirat: With these points in mind, how do you evaluate trade relations between Europe and Iran?
Analyst: Given what was said above, there is another point. Given the mindset and structure of the Trump administration, one cannot rule out the possibility of Washington's official withdrawal from the JCPOA. Nevertheless, the US government is trying, at this juncture, to advance its objectives through reforming the JCPOA, and believes this approach is in line with the United States' national interests. In addition to reforming the JCPOA, the Americans are also considering ratcheting up the economic pressure on Iran. So, the prospects of trade relations with Iran cannot be analyzed optimistically in spite of Europe's opposition to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
Trump's motive behind pulling out of the JCPOA is to increase economic pressure on Iran as a move to impose his will. The West believes that Iran came to the negotiating table as a result of pressure, and that if the pressure had continued, Iran might have given more concessions. Therefore, if White House authorities opt to put their views into action when it comes to pulling out of the JCPOA, they will focus their efforts on advancing the policy of depriving Iran from any economic benefits of the JCPOA. To that end, they will put pressure on European businessmen.
In light of history, European countries do not have enough power to keep resisting Washington's policy of coercion. They might try to maintain or expand their economic relations with Iran in the short run, but will not be able to sustain this policy. Moreover, European countries do not see eye to eye when it comes to opposing US policies. They also have different views on relations with the US.
Source :Persian-language Basirat Website