"Since economic engagement is the avenue through which working relationships
between nations are fostered, creating trust, which allows talks and
negotiations on any outstanding issues of difference to take place, the 18
million euro ($20.7 million) EC payment, as the first tranche of a 50 million
euro economic package pledged to Iran, is a positive development. The fact that
Europe is proceeding with its commitments under the JCPOA in the face of the
opposition and threats by the US is admirable, and in its self-interest,”
Marsha Freeman, the technology editor at Executive Intelligence Review in
Washington, DC, told Tasnim.
She added, "However, how much it will help Iran is open to question. Specific projects are not yet included in the material that has been released.”
Marsha Freeman was born in New York City and was educated at Queens College and Columbia University. She is the author of hundreds of articles on the US space program and has been published in Fusion Magazine, Executive Intelligence Review, 21st Century Science & Technology, Acta Astronautica, Space World, New Federalist newspaper, Science Books & Films, Space Governance Journal, The World & I, Quest, The Encyclopedia of the Midwest, and many other periodicals. In 1993 she authored the acclaimed book "How We Got to the Moon: The Story of the German Space Pioneers” and then in 2000 she authored "Challenges of Human Space Exploration.” She has been a witness before the United States Congress at hearings on science, energy, space, and transportation budgets and policies.
Following is the full text of the interview.
Tasnim: On August 23, the European Commission adopted a first package of €18 million for projects in support of sustainable economic and social development in the Islamic Republic of Iran, including €8 million assistance to the private sector. High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said, "Since the renewal of the EU-Iran relations as a result of the Iran nuclear deal, cooperation has developed in many sectors. We are committed to sustain it and this new package will widen economic and sectoral relations in areas that are of direct benefit to our citizens”. What do you think about the package? How much could this help Iran?
Freeman: Since economic engagement is the avenue through which working relationships between nations are fostered, creating trust, which allows talks and negotiations on any outstanding issues of difference to take place, the 18 million euro ($20.7 million) EC payment, as the first tranche of a 50 million euro economic package pledged to Iran, is a positive development. The fact that Europe is proceeding with its commitments under the JCPOA in the face of the opposition and threats by the US is admirable, and in its self-interest.
However, how much it will help Iran is open to question. Specific projects are not yet included in the material that has been released. If the emphasis is tourism and the environment this will not bring new economic growth to Iran. On the other hand, China's New Silk Road initiative, which values Iran as a link between the Middle East and Eurasia, has created the large-scale infrastructure projects that transform economies, and societies.
In contrast to the EC's 50 million euro investment fund, China's Export-Import Bank is financing 26 projects in Iran, estimated at $8.5 billion. In May, China sent the first train from Bayannur, in Inner Mongolia, to Tehran, to open new trade routes. Projects such as the electrification of a 926-kilometer railroad from Tehran to Mashhad, financed with a $1.5 billion loan from China, increase the productivity of the entire economy. Iran's economy will benefit most from full participation in the New Silk Road.
Tasnim: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently named senior policy adviser Brian Hook as special representative for Iran in charge of "Iran Action Group” to coordinate Trump’s pressure campaign on the Islamic Republic following Washington’s withdrawal from an international nuclear deal with Tehran. What’s your take on the action group?
Freeman: It is not clear what this new "Iran Action Group” will be doing, differently than the policy the Department of State already pursues. However, judging from the appointment of Brian Hook, as Special Representative for Iran, the approach of this group will be to continue, if not intensify, the Administration's "hard line” towards Iran.
Exemplary of this approach, is an August 24 statement by Hook, released by the Department of State, in which he says that the European Union payment, announced the previous day, "sends the wrong message.” He makes the inflammatory, threatening statement, that "more money in the hands of the Ayatollah means more money to conduct assassinations in those very European countries.” It is highly unlikely any positive change in policy could come from this new Group.
Tasnim: President Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton said on August 22 that the Europeans have to make a choice between the US and Iran in observing American sanctions. How much do you think Europe could resist?
Freeman: John Bolton is well known as a neo-conservative, who believes that the United States has the power, indeed the responsibility, to organize and support "regime change,” when foreign governments pursue policies, even domestically, that are not acceptable to the United States. His goal is nothing less than the overthrow of the government of Iran.
By walking out of the Iran nuclear agreement, the United States has isolated itself from all of the other signators to the agreement. Now, as Europe, Russia, and China deepen their economic relations with Iran, as the agreement proscribes, the United States can only make noise, and empty threats from the sidelines.
Europe has decided to proactively protect its companies that are engaged with Iran. In a joint statement released on August 6, on the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran, High Representative Federica Mogherini, and the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom state that their "Blocking Statute” would come into effect the following day.
That statue protects EU companies doing business with Iran, from the impact of US extraterritorial (third party) sanctions. The August 23 EU announcement notes that "normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran constitutes an essential part of the JCPOA.” If Europe is committed to continue the agreement, they have no choice but to resist the imposition of sanctions by the US.
Tasnim: Do you believe that a new round of talks between Tehran and Washington could change anything given to the fact that other parties of the JCPOA have remained committed to the deal?
Freeman: Although President Trump has said he is interested in talks with Iran to reach a "better” agreement, covering not only nuclear activities, but also missiles, it is difficult to imagine what the United States would have to offer in such negotiations, if the policy enunciated by Secretary Pompeo, Hook, and Bolton are the guiding principles.
However, President Trump has been known to change course, perhaps regardless of advice from his advisers. Witness North Korea. It will then be in Iran's court to decide what is most in its interest.