By Javad Heirannia

Trump has no alternative for JCPOA: ex-WH official

September 19, 2017

TEHRAN - A former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology says the U.S. administration is “divided” on the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), yet President Trump has no “alternative” for it.

“President Trump, bent on wiping out all President Obama’s accomplishments, would like to bring it down as a ‘bad deal’ but has no alternative to offer,” Frank N. von Hippel tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: While the recent IAEA report reconfirms that Iran has met its obligations under the JCPOA, the U.S. seeks to withdraw from the nuclear deal and is pushing for inspection of Iran’s military sites. What is the U.S. in fact after?

A: The U.S. is divided on the JCPOA.  President Trump, bent on wiping out all President Obama’s accomplishments, would like to bring it down as a “bad deal” but has no alternative to offer. Some more responsible Republicans, although they worry about Iran…, realize that the JCPOA has created, at least temporarily, an island of stability in the nuclear world – especially at the time of a new nuclear crisis with North Korea.

“Trump’s advisors have urged him not to isolate the United States from its allies by taking the U.S. out of the JCPOA.  Instead, they would hope to provoke Iran to leave the agreement,” notes Von Hippel, now a professor of Princeton University.Q: Recently Trump extended the Iran sanctions relief for another 120 days but and at the same time his Treasury imposed new sanctions on some Iranian companies and individuals. What do you think of this approach?

A: Trump’s advisors have urged him not to isolate the United States from its allies by taking the U.S. out of the JCPOA.  Instead, they would hope to provoke Iran to leave the agreement.

Q: Iran has said it will not allow inspections of its military sites, and this is an internationally recognized principle. In view of this is it possible that the U.S. start to create fake documents against Iran as it did in the case of Iraq in the 1990s (some experts like Tariq Rauf, ex-IAEA official believes in it)?
A: Although nothing is impossible, I have heard nothing about the possible creation of fake documents.  I understand that the IAEA position is that it will not demand access to any Iranian military sites unless it is given a good reason to do so.  If the IAEA Board is convinced that inspectors must be sent to some military base, I would hope that Iran would cooperate.  My experience is that, except for plans, there are few real military secrets.  I don’t think that Iran would suffer any harm from such an inspection and its openness would be disarming to world opinion.

Q: If the U.S. quits the nuclear deal, obviously European companies and banks won’t work with Iran even if their governments remain committed to the JCPOA. This won’t be pleasing for Iran. Shouldn’t European countries provide their companies and banks with necessary guarantees?

“Much of the real opposition to the Nuclear Deal comes from unrelated concerns of U.S. allies in the Middle East relating to the balance of power in the region.”A: I agree that the European governments should support the JCPOA regardless of what the Trump Administration does. I am not an expert on financial sanctions and therefore cannot offer an opinion on the practicality and limits of possible financial guarantees.

Q: Certain officials within the Trump administration including Nikki Haley claim that Iran is destabilizing the region and relate it to the nuclear deal. Why does the U.S. bring up such issues?

A: Much of the real opposition to the nuclear deal comes from unrelated concerns of U.S. allies in the Middle East relating to the balance of power in the region. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia fear Iran as a destabilizing force.  The supporters of the Deal, like me, say, that, even if that is the case, it is better to take the nuclear factor out of the equation. The opponents seem to feel that, if Iran is seen as a nuclear threat, it will be easier to unite the world against Iran. I think that they are correct. It therefore would be in Iran’s interest to stick with the nuclear deal even if the Trump administration takes the United States out of it.

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