As Trump considers pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, international leaders have come out in support of the agreement with Iran. Many consider withdrawing a mistake and an irrational decision.
FPI co-founder Elmira Bayrasli discussed the issue with Dina Esfandiary, a CSSS fellow at King’s College London and adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Foreign Policy Interrupted: The deadline for certifying the Iran nuclear deal is on Oct 15. President Trump has talked about scrapping the deal. But there is talk that he can not certify but keep the deal. How can those two things be true?
Dina Esfandiary: Today, it seems increasingly likely that President Trump will not certify the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran on the October 15 deadline. The way he will maintain the deal is by passing the buck to Congress, who will then have to decide whether to impose additional sanctions on Iran based on President Trump’s decertification. What the administration may try to do is convince Congress not to impose additional sanctions and use the decertification statement to coerce Iran into negotiations to tighten the deal. The problem is that this is a risky strategy that will likely not work, because Iran will not renegotiate a deal that the US is threatening to pull out of unilaterally.
FPI: What is at stake with not certifying the deal or, worse, scrapping the deal altogether?
DE: Put simply, what is at stake is Iran’s commitments to curb its nuclear program. If Trump does not certify the deal, then he risks a backlash from those in Tehran who were not advocates of the deal to begin with. Their views will likely harden and calls for Iran to stop implementing its commitments would increase. Alternatively, Tehran could try to appear as the ‘reasonable one’ (a strategy the Rouhani administration is fond of) and appeal to the other members of the P5+1 to uphold the deal and ensure that Iran can reap the benefits of the agreement. This would effectively split the US from its allies on this issue. Iran might very well go down that path should Trump decide to scrap the deal completely.
FPI: Is Iran complying with the deal? Is it working?
DE: Yes, Iran is complying with the deal. It has implemented all its commitments and the IAEA and its Director General have confirmed this a number of times. The latest of which occurred on Monday this week. The deal is accomplishing what it set out to do: curb Iran’s nuclear program. Without it, Iran’s nuclear program would continue unabated.
FPI: What should Washington’s policy toward Iran be? If you could advise Trump on a course of action, what would it be?
President Trump’s administration should draw on the deal to expand the dialogue with Iran to cover both areas of concern, and areas where the two countries can work together towards shared goals. Without a nuclear deal, dialogue with Iran will be impossible. If the US administration certified the deal and continued to implement it however, Iran would be willing to talk, something the Rouhani administration has repeated time and again. Such dialogue could also be extended to other issues of concern, including Iran’s activities in the region.