“Today is not 2012...but I think, if anything, Iran is in a much stronger negotiating position, and in fact with Russia (mostly) on its side, and likely China too, there is not much the US can really do except shout and stamp its feet,” John Steppling, who is based in Norway, told Tasnim in an interview.
Steppling is a well-known author, playwright and an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theater, and PEN-West winner for playwriting. He is also a regular political commentator for a number of media outlets around the world.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Tasnim: A year after the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the European Union’s continued failure to ensure Iran’s economic rights under the deal, Tehran stopped honoring certain commitments in accordance with the text of the international accord. This week, the Islamic Republic plans to take “the third step” in reducing its obligations under the JCPOA. It seems that these steps have had some good results as the European side is endeavoring to save the deal. What is your assessment of the outcomes of Iran’s nuclear steps?
Steppling: If you go back to 2012 and the IAEA inspectors noting that Iranian enrichment was in excess of the allowed 3.76 %, this was, I think, the Fordow and Natanz Enrichment Plants. In any case, the fall out was Europe taking some economic actions and the US claiming the Iranian government would fall and so forth and increasing their aggressive rhetoric. The Iranian currency did decline and then Israel, let’s not forget, assassinated Iranian scientists. This is hardly talked about anymore. And the US launched cyber-attacks against Iranian government facilities. The point is that this is when Obama chose to talk with Iran. And the real reason he sat down at that point is that Iran had not fallen apart, but in fact, had adjusted rather successfully to the sanctions, and also that global opinion was moving even further in an anti-Western direction. It should also be noted that Assad was still the hugely popular leader of Syria and the US had not been able to unseat him or topple his government. The moral of this story is that when a nation is united in a belief, in its identity and culture, it will withstand Imperialist aggressions. The US only decided to sit down at the negotiating table when their covert actions (and those of the Saudis and Israelis) had failed to make a dent in the Iranian resolve. Today is not 2012...but I think, if anything, Iran is in a much stronger negotiating position, and in fact with Russia (mostly) on its side, and likely China too, there is not much the US can really do except shout and stamp its feet.
Tasnim: As you know, Iran’s policy of “active resistance” against US bullying and unilateralism has borne good results. In the latest instance, Iran’s supertanker Adrian Darya, formerly known as Grace-1, was recently released by the government of Gibraltar despite a US request to continue its detention. In another development, the US recently announced plans to create a new security initiative in the Persian Gulf by forming a coalition against what it calls an Iranian threat. The US has asked its allies, including Germany, Japan, and France, to join the coalition but the call has not been warmly welcomed by them. What do you think about Iran’s policy and the concept of resistance?
Steppling: I think it’s significant that Germany so openly refused to join this navel mission. Partly this was because nobody understood what this mission was meant to look like -- what was its purpose, after all? But all of the US rhetoric about Iran is beginning to feel embarrassing. Europe certainly knows Iran is a friend and not a threat or enemy. France and Germany are clearly fed up with US pressure and only the UK is a faithful lapdog to the US. That said, it is disappointing that so few nations have stood up to the US and the Trump administration. The JCPOA was never a great deal for Iran in the first place. How could it, the JCPOA, allow the US to leave with no penalties? Who wrote this thing? How is it that Israel is immune to nuclear inspection? Who decides this stuff? The entire fabric of international agreement-making is illogical and heavily biased toward the US and its few remaining allies. Iran is targeted and this constitutes another example of Western Imperialism.
Tasnim: Despite Washington’s policy of “maximum pressure” and its most severe sanctions against Tehran, the Islamic Republic has been able to control prices and inflation in the country through adopting certain financial strategies which are in line with the policy of “resistance economy”. What is your take on that? Do you think that the resistance will work in the future?
Steppling: I think, as I said above, that the resolve of the people of Iran is remarkable. Just as in Syria. Just as in Venezuela. Just as in North Korea. None of these countries has bent before the onslaught of western (US) pressure. That is to be applauded and respected. I do not know the intricacies of the sanctions policy, but clearly, the impact is not insignificant, and yet the country has stood up and refused to prostrate itself. The International Journal of Health Policy and Management has stated that the US sanctions violate international law and the right of Iranians to proper health care and medicines. But the US is a gangster state, and Trump is the ultimate incarnation of that mafia-like mentality. Except to say that does a disservice to the Cosa Nostra. They don't care. It is really stunning that Saudi Arabia and Israel get away with all manner of violence and illegality and yet the western press is silent. The UN does nothing. Where is the outcry about the Saudis beheading of a teenager for a crime he allegedly committed when sixteen? Where is western press to condemn Israeli settler violence in Gaza? The brutality of the treatment of Palestinians is perfectly well known. Where are the sanctions against Israel? Against the House of Saud?? Why is the western press so accepting of lies about Maduro and Venezuela, when it knows perfectly well they are lies? So yes, to answer the question, I think Iran will win this standoff. It's already winning.