U.S. Threatens Nuclear Deal it Admits Iran Respects – How Will Tehran Respond?
In part one of our interview, Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former senior Iranian diplomat, analyzes the Trump administration’s “review” of the Iran nuclear agreement despite acknowledging that Tehran is fulfilling its obligations.
AARON MATÉ: It’s The Real News. I’m Aaron Maté. The Trump Administration has confirmed the Iran Nuclear Deal is working. But despite that it might be trying to tear it up. In a letter to Congress Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed Tehran is in compliance. But Tillerson then said the Nuclear Deal is now under review and added this.
REX TILLERSON: The Trump Administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran. The evidence is clear Iran’s provocative actions threaten the United States, the region and the world.
AARON MATÉ: At the same time, Defense Secretary James Mattis was in Saudi Arabia where he vowed US support for what he called “resistance to Iran’s mischief”.
JAMES MATTIS: Now that we have the blessing of our leadership, that it’s important that we actually do something with it. We actually do something as we reinforce Saudi Arabia’s resistance to Iran’s mischief and make you more affective with your military as we work together as partners.
AARON MATÉ: So, why is the Trump Administration increasing anti-Iran rhetoric and why are they threatening a Nuclear Deal they acknowledge Iran upholds? And how is all this viewed in Tehran, just weeks before a new presidential election? Well, joining us is Dr. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former Senior Iranian Diplomat who served in several top posts. He is now a Middle East and Nuclear policy specialist at Princeton University. Dr. Mousavian, welcome.
DR. SEYED HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: Morning.
AARON MATÉ: Good morning. So, I want to start by playing you the comments of Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. He served as a Chief of Staff to Secretary of State, Colin Powel, during the Bush Administration, and during the pivotal time when they made their phony case for going to war. And I spoke to him yesterday about the rhetoric we’re hearing right now from the Trump Administration about Iran. And this is what he said.
COLONEL LAWRENCE WILKERSON: I think we’re seeing the same sheet of music unfold again — different target this time, Iran instead of Iraq. But we’re seeing the same people in many respects neoconservatives most of them, influence this Administration and take advantage of some of the things that this Administration offers them, such as its rank amateurism. And try to use that to get what they want, what they’ve always wanted, which is regime change in Tehran.
AARON MATÉ: So, that’s Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who served under President George W. Bush, and took part in the effort to build the case for invading Iraq now telling us that he’s seeing the same people push for the same thing, regime change but this time in Iran. Dr. Mousavian how do you respond to that?
DR. SEYED HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: I think regime change has been a US policy since Revolution 1979; it’s not something new. Every US Administration, whether Democrat or Republican, they have tried their best with the most coercive strategies, pressures, sanctions, even supporting military invasion of Iran by Saddam — even the use of chemical weapons by Saddam — they have done whatever they could to bring a regime change in Iran.
And it’s clear, the US has failed and Iran today is one of the most powerful, stable countries in the Region, if not the most. Therefore, I don’t see a major difference between Trump’s policy with Bush or Clinton or Reagan.
However, I don’t believe Trump Administration would go to war with Iran. You are right to say some people in charge today they are the same people who attack Iraq in 2003, or Afghanistan. Nevertheless, I believe they have learned a lot from attacking Iraq and Afghanistan. The US has failed in Afghanistan; the US failed in Iraq. The US lost trillions of dollars, the US lost thousands of civilians or military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the US has left these two countries and the Region in completely unsecure, unstable situation.
And it is what Trump, himself said, and many Americans, they have said the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq by the US are the root causes of expansion of terrorism and violence in the Region. They know they have failed. They are not going to repeat and they also understand if they have already failed in Afghanistan and Iraq, if they are going to attack Iran, the consequences would be ten-fold.
Iran is a great country, big country — 80 million population — with huge influence in the Region and beyond. And I don’t believe they are going to go to war with Iran.
AARON MATÉ: Okay, I take your point about the continuity of US policy towards Iran, whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican, but what about what we’re seeing now? I mean, you have the sanctions being reviewed, the Nuclear Deal under threat, and the US appearing to ramp up support for the Saudi Campaign in Yemen.
DR. SEYED HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: The reason I believe Trump is increasing the pressures and sanctions and accusations of Iran is because there was a very short period of engagement between Iran and the US. I mean, what I said about the US policy from 1979 for regime change, sanctions, pressures, covert war, overt war, economic war — it really was the US policy for decades.
However, President Obama in his second term, not the first term, from 2013 to 2016, had a piece-meal engagement with Iran, under nuclear, one issue. And diplomacy succeeded; the Nuclear Deal was resolved… agreed. The nuclear crisis was resolved and these negotiations between the war powers and Iran, ended to creation a document — the Nuclear Deal — which is the most comprehensive agreement during the history of non-proliferation, preventing diversion of peaceful nuclear program towards organization with the most and the highest level of intrusive inspection and transparency.
At the same time, this short period of engagement created a lot of other positive results, like: the exchange of prisoners between Iran and the US; Iran attended the international peace talks on Syria; Iran accepted the principles the US and the other regional war powers agreed in October 2015 on Syria; there were 16 American sailors illegally, they entered Iranian water territory, in less than 24 hours, because of this short engagement, Iran agreed to release them without punishment; there was also a peaceful settlement on financial disputes after 38 years, they agreed for a part of financial dispute. There were a lot of outcomes in these — just these three years.
Israel and Saudi Arabia, they were extremely angry with the development because Israelis and Saudis, they wanted Obama to attack Iranian nuclear program. They wanted Obama to attack Syria. They wanted again to bring the US to different wars in the Region. Obama was not for war. Obama was for diplomacy, that’s why he could manage the Nuclear. And after all this direct negotiation with Iran, the US came to understand at the end, there is a need for balance, and that’s why President Obama said, Saudi Arabia and Iran, they should share the Region.
However, again Saudi Arabia, Israelis, they were extremely angry. When Trump came to power, he is going now to satisfy Israel and Saudi Arabia. All what they are doing is going to satisfy the Arab allies, and the Israelis; and they are going to promise that we are not going to continue engagement policy with Iran.
AARON MATÉ: So, my question for you then is — how does Iran respond?
DR. SEYED HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: Iranians on the Nuclear Deal, they would be committed as long as the US has not violated. There is a joint committee between Iran and the four(?) powers. Everyone who complains about violation by the other side has to bring documents and the reasons in this joint committee, and this joint committee should decide. Now, while we are talking together, we have the joint committee in Vienna, they are discussing. Iranians also they have brought a lot of reasons why the US has broken, has violated the JCPOA.
However, Iran would continue… Iran has been committed to Nuclear Deal, despite the US has created a lot of problems for the deal, but they would continue. If the deal is violated, therefore, Iran would not be committed to the deal. If the deal is violated by United States, the other members also they would not be committed. The UN Resolution would be cancelled.
Therefore, Iranians they would follow their normal nuclear program as usual. They would have no restrictions if, for example, they have accepted to have no reprocessing for 25 years, they would start to have reprocessing. If they have accepted to have enrichment below 5% — by non-proliferation treaty, you can, you know, reach to 100% — there is no restriction. As goodwill, Iran has accepted to enrich below 5% for 10, 15 years. Therefore, Iran would not be committed with such restrictions. Iran would have peaceful nuclear program, no doubt about it, with no restrictions.
AARON MATÉ: And then so, given that this is an administration that has said some bellicose things about Iran, if Iran were to resume its nuclear activities, what do you think that means about the possibility for actual armed confrontation?
DR. SEYED HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: I think internationally IAEA, International Atomic Energy Agency, is responsible to monitor and to report about the nuclear program of the member states. As long as Iran would continue to have peaceful nuclear program, the IAEA would monitor, would visit, would inspect and they would report this is peaceful. As long as this is peaceful, the US cannot attack Iran. Any military strike would be completely internationally illegitimate. And there would be no international support for such a move.
Therefore, the deal is about the measures on transparency and inspections and non-diversion towards weaponization, and limits on Iranian nuclear program, as a confidence-building measure. Some measures which no other member state of NPT, Non-Proliferation Treaty, has ever accepted. Iran is the only country, as goodwill, has accepted, as a confidence building, has accepted such huge limits and transparency measures.
If the deal is cancelled, Iran would go back to Non-Proliferation Treaty; like every other member state of NPT, they would have their nuclear program. We have Japan, they are enriching, we have Brazil, they are enriching, we have many member states of Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT, they have reprocessing. Iran would have the same. If there is no trust, the criteria is not the US judgment; the criteria is IAEA, International Atomic Energy Agency, affiliated to United Nations, not to the US.
AARON MATÉ: And that wraps Part 1 of this discussion. Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a former Senior Iranian diplomat, who served in several top posts, now a Middle East and Nuclear Policy specialist at Princeton University. Dr. Mousavian, thank you.
DR. SEYED HOSSEIN MOUSAVIAN: Thank you very much. Thank you.
AARON MATÉ: And stay tuned for Part 2 of this discussion. I’m Aaron Maté for The Real News.