Vladimir Sazhin: "Iran nuclear deal could collapse"

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Vladimir Sazhin: "Iran nuclear deal could collapse"

A new phase in the US-Iranian confrontation was designated yesterday by US Vice President Mike Pence, who said that Washington sees only two options for the nuclear deal between the six negotiators and Tehran: unless the Iran nuclear deal is fixed in the coming months, the US will withdraw from it. A senior research fellow of the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Sazhin, told Vestnik Kavkaza what the Americans want and what is the possible development of the conflict between the two countries over the nuclear deal.

- Vladimir Igorevich, first of all, how do Americans want to amend the agreement between the six negotiators and Iran?

- Already during the pre-election campaign, Donald Trump said that the JCPOA is unprofitable for the US and all the countries that signed it, except Iran. He had searched for shortcomings for a long time, and, as he said, found them: international inspectors' inability to monitor absolutely all objects, including military ones; the lack of guarantee in the document that Iran will never be able to acquire nuclear weapons; the JCPOA is too limited in duration - 10-15 years; an absence of a prohibition on Iran's developing of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Trump wants to compensate  these four shortcomings by additional changes to the JCPOA or the replacement of the JCPOA with another document.

- To what extent do these claims against the deal with Iran reflect reality?

- First of all, it is worth paying attention to the fact that Iran is not just a member of the IAEA, but also signed an additional protocol in 2003 to an agreement with the IAEA. This is an optional, voluntarily signed document, under which the signatory countries undertake to accept IAEA inspectors at any time, without lengthy bureaucratic approval processes, and any objects considered nuclear by inspectors are subject to verification, not just those declared as nuclear by the country. The Iranian parliament has not yet ratified this protocol, but had voluntarily complied with its requirements as if it were in effect from 2003 until 2006 and since the signing of the JCPOA. In this regard, Trump's claims are groundless, because they have as much control over Iran's nuclear facilities as possible. Of course, Americans want access to secret military facilities that are not related to the nuclear program, but Tehran will never show them. As for safeguards against the creation of a nuclear bomb, neither documents nor organizations can give them. If a country wants to make a nuclear bomb, it will make it. Suffice it to recall the example of North Korea, which joined the IAEA in 1974, signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1985, built a nuclear infrastructure on this basis, withdrew from the agency in 1994 and created nuclear weapons.

- In your opinion, how has the view on the nuclear deal changed over the past year and a half - has the US succeeded in talking someone over to its side?

- Russia and China immediately opposed any attempts to change this deal. Now the joint commission of the United States, Britain, France and Germany is negotiating the issue in Europe. The US wants to force the three European parties to support Trump's idea of forcing Iran to change the agreement or withdraw from it. But European countries also declared their support for the JCPOA, they needs Iran both politically and economically. Let me remind you that the trade turnover between Iran and the EU doubled in 2017: from almost $5 billion to almost $10 billion, which shows the interest of European companies in the Iranian market. At the same time, Americans have certain leverage. The US controls many banking world systems and other economic infrastructure facilities around the world. If Washington impose certain sanctions on those European companies that will cooperate with Iran, then, of course, in choosing between Iran and the USб the companies will choose the US. If the Americans insist inflexibly on it, there is a possibility that, being in a desperate situation, the Europeans will succumb to them.

- In that case, where is this going: will the US really withdraw from the deal and what is the possible impact?

- If the Americans convince UK, France and Germany, the deal will fall apart. Since Iran opposes any changes to the deal and any new negotiations on its nuclear program, the option of accepting additional documents is excluded, which means that the collapse of the JCPOA is the only option. But there is an option that they will not succeed in pressing on the Europeans and the US will be the only one exiting the deal - then the JCPOA can be preserved, since Iran promised to remain committed to its obligations if other parties to the deal, except for the US, adhere to it.

The collapse of the deal is fraught with significant negative consequences both in the international arena and within Iran. The JCPOA is a significant document, the second  important document after the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons of the 1970s, which in practice has made a great contribution to the cause of non-proliferation. If the deal collapses, there will be opportunities for about 30 so-called threshold countries to create their own nuclear weapons. In addition, the JCPOA is a great victory for President Hassan Rouhani, the basis of his political activities in the country. Rouhani has many political opponents in the country, very strong ones, who opposed the deal and even negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program from the very beginning, and therefore the collapse of the deal may lead to the departure of Rouhani and his team from leadership in Iran, which may completely reorient both the domestic political and foreign policy of Iran. It is in the interest of neither Middle East, nor the whole world.

- Does this mean that the interests of Washington and the Iranian radicals, currently opposed by the US, unite against the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal?

- Indeed, Trump and his diplomats now act in the interests of Iran's most radical fundamentalist conservative forces. They work together against Rouhani, which can lead to the most unfortunate consequences, because Rouhani is a negotiable person, who managed to open Iran for the whole world. If his soft policy stops, it can lead to big problems. First, Iran will resume the old nuclear program, so there will be no new negotiations, only work to build nuclear weapons. Israel and the US, in turn, like Pence said, will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, but it will be possible solely through the use of force. It would bring the threat of war, causing dire consequences.