Biden will return to JCPOA but won’t lift sanctions swiftly: George Washington University professor
A professor of international business at the George Washington University says he thinks Joe Biden will restore the 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA) in order to make his former boss Barack Obama happy and strengthen ties with Europeans who feel “betrayed” by the United States.
However, Professor Hossein Askari says Biden will not remove sanctions on Iran all of a sudden and he will try to build on the sanctions that Donald Trump imposed on Iran.
“He will not remove the sanctions imposed by Trump in return for Iran destroying any excess enriched fuel that they have accumulated and addressing any other infraction after Trump’s withdrawal from the treaty,” Askari tells the Tehran Times.
One year after the Trump administration formally pulled out of the nuclear agreement, on May 8, 2019, Iran said its “strategic patience” is over and started to gradually remove limits on its nuclear activities.
Professor Askari also says Iran should not budge on its defensive missile program as the country is “surrounded by the U.S. and its allies.”
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: As Joe Biden is poised to become the president of the United States, do you think he will move quickly to restore the nuclear agreement (JCPOA)?
A: I think Biden will want to get the agreement back and on track again for a number of reasons. This agreement was the singular success and legacy of the Obama era. Biden would bring a smile on the face of his former boss. It would also strengthen relations with U.S. allies in Europe who feel they have been betrayed by the United States. And it would show that the U.S. will honor its agreements and restore some confidence in the international system that has been shattered by Trump.
“Biden will not be a panacea for Iran’s ongoing problems”
But I don’t think that Biden would say, okay let’s go back and assume that the agreement was fully in force. Namely, he will not remove the sanctions imposed by Trump in return for Iran destroying any excess enriched fuel that they have accumulated and addressing any other infraction after Trump’s withdrawal from the treaty. Biden will want more. Biden will ask for a dramatic curtailment of Iran’s missile program, for Iran to cut ties with Syria, Hezbollah, Houthis, militias in Iraq, with Hamas and who knows who else and demand that Iran pulls its advisors and forces from anywhere outside of Iran’s borders. He will tie all these to restoring the nuclear agreement and lifting sanctions, and even then, only step by step and not with total removal of sanctions.
So don’t think that Biden will be a panacea for Iran’s ongoing problems. Trump has done Iran much harm. And Trump, as all U.S. presidents before him, says that he is doing this to bring freedom and human rights for the Iranian people.
Q: Let’s look at the possible but new U.S. conditions one by one. Is the U.S. justified to make such demands? Let’s begin with Iran’s defensive missile program.
A: Well, at the outset let me say that the Trump administration, Israel and a number of others have falsely said that Iran’s missile program was covered in the JCPOA. It was not. Lies are the hallmarks of the Trump presidency. Iran needs to defend itself. Just recall the invasion of Saddam Hussein and how the international community stood idly by, supported the aggressor and trashed the most important article in the UN Charter. Iran cannot rely on international agreements and the United Nations for its security. It needs strong defensive and deterrent capabilities surrounded by the U.S. and its allies.
“Iran cannot rely on international agreements and the United Nations for its security.”
As important, how can Biden with a straight face demand all these when the United States has armed Israel and the Persian Gulf countries who are members of the PGCC to the teeth and has its own military capabilities poised in the region? It is duplicity to the max. Iran must not even entertain any such discussions.
Q: How about Iran’s association with certain elements in the region that the U.S. has labelled as hostile?
A: It is ironic that the United States talks about Iran’s associations with undesirable elements, while it embraces the worst possible rogue elements and states in the region. Let’s start with Mohammad bin Salman or MBS and how he has treated his own people and had a U.S.-based journalist, Khashoggi, butchered to death and pours down bombs indiscriminately on civilians in Yemen. Yet, the U.S. President has nothing but praise for Saudi Arabia. Look at Israel, a country that tramples on international law every day by confiscating Palestinian lands to build Israeli settlements, oppresses Palestinians and blockades the people of Gaza to deprive them of much-needed humanitarian assistance. The U.S embraces the dictator Sisi in Egypt who helps Israel in oppressing the people of Gaza and tramples on the rights of all Egyptians. Look the U.S. is in no position to lecture anyone about their misplaced associations.
Q: Lastly, what about a demand that Iran should pull out its advisors from anywhere in the region?
A: Look the U.S is some 7,000 miles from the Persian Gulf but surrounds Iran with its own forces and with the help of its allies. It carries out special operations into every country. Yet Iran cannot advise its allies in the region? Let’s get serious. This demand should be dismissed until the United States withdraws all its forces from the entire Middle East.
Q: Do you think Iran should seek justice for the assassination of General Soleimani?
A: Absolutely. Iran should launch a complaint with the International Court of Justice. And even with the International Criminal Court, which the U.S. does not recognize. Also, Iran should have list of all those involved in any way with this assassination and if they ever travel outside the U.S. Iran should attempt to have them arrested and extradited or brought in front of the International Criminal Court.
“The International Court of Justice is the appropriate venue if the U.S. will not address Iran’s complaint” about the damages caused by sanctions, says the professor.
Q: Do you think Iran should be compensated for the economic hardship caused by the U.S. pullout from the international nuclear agreement and imposing sanctions?
A: Yes. The U.S. broke an international agreement to which it was a signatory. Iran had not deviated from the agreement. As a result, Iran has suffered human and economic losses. The International Court of Justice is the appropriate venue if the U.S. will not address Iran’s complaint.
Q: What can Iran and Iranians abroad do to alleviate the pressures imposed by the United States?
A: Iran must address its economic woes. Iran has wasted much time and many opportunities after the Iran-Iraq War. Economic reforms and addressing Iran’s economic shortcomings becomes harder with each passing day.
At the same time, Iranians living in the U.S. and in Europe should show more compassion towards Iran and the Iranian people who have suffered so much. Whether Iranians living abroad agree or disagree with the regime in Tehran, they should have compassion for all Iranians. Some Iranians in the U.S. are against the Democratic Party in the U.S. as they believe Jimmy Carter was behind the toppling of the Shah by his participation in the Guadeloupe Conference. They must let go of this and not be prisoners of their past, things that happened some 40 years ago. They should not support the likes of Trump in the hopes that he might attack Iran so that they could come back in triumph. This is morally wrong and only hurts ordinary Iranians.