President of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council Trita Parsi: Trump‘s decision on Iranian nuclear deal is recipe for disaster
President of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council Trita Parsi has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about the refusal of U.S. President Donald Trump to certify Iran‘s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions (JCPOA), as well as possible consequences of this Trump‘s move to the region, Europe and the whole world.Question: Why has President Trump done that? Is there any rational reason behind his decision?
Answer: I don‘t see any national security reasons for him doing it. I see reasons that have more to do with his personal politics, his hatred for Obama, his desire to appease some of the big donors that are supporting his super PACs, and it is the Israelis and the Saudis. So, I don‘t see any no security justification for what he is doing, because what is he doing is really putting the United States at risk. This is a recipe for disaster, a self-destructive act that risking undoing years of careful diplomatic efforts.
Q.: Should one expect that his decision will deepen disagreements inside his administration? Some people disagree with him, notably U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Should any resignation be expected?
A.: I think he will make their work more difficult. Whether they are willing to retire or not, it‘s not quite clear, but their work is going to become much more difficult, because increasingly they are tying themselves in knots trying to defend the truly indefensible.
Q.: What might be Congress reaction?
A.: They are not happy about this, because they recognize that Trump is trying to push this issue onto them, so that they will be ones responsible for making the final decision to kill the deal, and that they will face the consequences of the ensuing disaster. But nevertheless we will see this week if the sentiments of Congress will change, because we have three thousand members of AIPAC coming to Capitol Hill this week to lobby, and one of the things they are going to lobby for is exactly this. So far, similar to the effort to destroy Obamacare, Trump has discovered that his fellow critics of the agreement have no real alternative. If Trump has succeeded at anything, it has been his ability to accidentally call the bluff of his colleagues on the Hill. On this issue of war and peace, cooler heads must prevail in Congress.
Q.: There is an opinion that through reinstating sanctions against Iran Trump is just trying to remove a competitor from the European natural gas and oil market. Could you comment on this?
A.: There may be economic calculations of that kind, but none of those frankly reached the point to be able to compete with security arguments that drove the previous administration towards striking this deal. These economic benefits are going to be minimal compared to the tremendous cost of another military war in the region.
Q.: Is it so serious?
A.: Certainly. The nuclear deal in the end of the day took two very negative scenarios off the table: the scenario of the Iranians having access to a bomb and the scenario of the United States going to war with Iran. Eliminating the deal puts these two very bad scenarios back onto the table. In Iran, the consequences are going to be that the ‘hardline‘ factions in Iran are going to benefit from this. They have already come out and said that this is gift to them. They are seeing how [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani will be weakened internally as a result of this. Iran that starts to go back to a more ‘hardline‘ position obviously is going to have a significant impact on the rest of the region as well. And one thing I think is quite certain is that Iran is going to have a much tougher regional policy going forward as a result of this.
Q.: How this could influence Russia‘s and China‘s role in the Gulf region?
A.: I think that from the Russian and Chinese scenario, on the one hand, perhaps not entirely unhappy to see the United States harm itself in the way that it is. But also it does create problems for them, because the United States that is this unserious, this reckless, and this untrustworthy, it‘s going to create problems for Russia and China as well. And North Korea will be the next flashpoint in which China in particular will have significant difficulties. Any effort to unilaterally extort other countries of the P5+1 to renegotiate the deal and change the goalpost is a violation of the deal, by definition. It doesn’t matter what fancy words are used to describe the process, in reality it is nothing short of the U.S. reneging on its word.
Q.: But what is about the European allies?
A.: The relationship between the United States and Europe are also going to suffer as a result of this. In the end of the day the Europeans view this as an important security achievement, and they do understand the disaster that will follow if it is killed. From Europe‘s perspective the United States has extensively engaged in saying that they have undermined European interests, particularly when it comes to international agreements, it is walking out of the Paris Agreement, walking out of UNESCO and etc.
Q.: Those are political elements, and what about economy?
A.: There would be profound negative consequences too. They include alienating allies by targeting some of their foremost companies with secondary sanctions for their continued trade with Iran that was envisioned under the JCPOA and engaging in a trade war with our closest allies, who could retaliate against the U.S. economy or protect their own companies from U.S. sanctions.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned about this in 2016 when he said "if foreign jurisdictions and companies feel that we will deploy sanctions without sufficient justification or for inappropriate reasons—secondary sanctions in particular—we should not be surprised if they look for ways to avoid doing business in the United States or in U.S. dollars." India, South Korea, and Turkey are already implementing policies to use their own currency in transactions with Iran.