By Javad Heirannia, Tehran Times
TEHRAN - Farhang Jahanpour of Oxford University’s Faculty of Oriental Studies says the Republican-dominated Congress won’t be able to rescind a possible nuclear deal with Iran because it will go against the wishes of the American voters and the international community who greatly favor a nuclear pact with Iran.
“If an agreement is reached, Congressmen will not be able to go against the wishes of their constituents,” Jahanpour tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.
“The decision by the Republicans to impose new sanctions on Iran has many strong opponents both at home and abroad,” he says.
Jahanpour, a former dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages at the University of Isfahan, also says, “It has been established beyond any reasonable doubt that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program ... Therefore, the main problem regarding Iran’s nuclear program is no longer a technical issue, but has to do with the political will on both sides to reach an agreement.”
He advised Iran “not to fall into the Republican and Israeli trap” and try to clinch a nuclear deal as “it is in everyone’s interest that the nuclear issue is resolved and Iran is allowed to play a bigger role in establishing peace and security in the Middle East.”
Following is the full text of the interview:
Q: What is the motive behind the U.S. Congress push for new sanctions on Iran while nuclear talks are underway?
A: This is an aspect of the domestic rivalry between the Republicans and the Democrats. In the same way that there are some hardliners in Iran who are opposed to a reasonable deal with the West that involves some compromise from both sides, there are also some hardliners in the United States who do not want their government to make any compromises on Iran’s nuclear program. They believe that Iran should not be allowed to have any nuclear enrichment capability, even if it is for purely peaceful purposes, although it is completely contrary to the NPT regulations that allow all those who have joined the NPT to have the full range of nuclear activities short of manufacturing nuclear weapons.
This opposition is partly due to domestic political differences, and it is not only confined to the Iranian nuclear issue that the now Republican majority in both Houses of Congress uses against the Obama Administration. They have also opposed his immigration, healthcare, and taxation policies, as well as President Obama’s recent opening to Cuba after 50 years.
The other reason for the Republican opposition to a deal with Iran is due to strong pressure exerted by Israel and to a lesser extent by Saudi Arabia who do not wish to see a rapprochement between Iran and the West. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia see Iran as a powerful regional rival and they are working very hard to keep Iran under sanctions and internationally isolated in order to reduce her regional influence.
Q: The push to pass new sanctions legislation against Iran in the new Congress shows that the Republicans do not believe in diplomacy with Iran. Will they derail the talks and possible future agreements if the Republicans gain control over the White House in next U.S. presidential election?
A: Some Republicans and even some pro-Israeli Democrats are strongly beholden to the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Only a short time ago, Senator Lindsey Graham, a senior Republican senator, went to Jerusalem [East al-Quds] and told Netanyahu: “I’m here to tell you, Mr. Prime Minister, that the Congress will follow your lead...” A day after President Obama delivered his State of Union address and said that he would veto any resolution that would impose new sanctions on Iran, the Republican Majority Leader John Boehner invited Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress in February, which was later postponed to March so that Netanyahu could also take part in the annual meeting of the powerful pro-Israeli lobby group AIPAC.
The aim is clearly to oppose President Obama and sabotage the talks, but the decision to invite Netanyahu has given rise to a great deal of opposition by many people in the United States, including among Republicans, who see Netanyahu’s involvement in the nuclear issue as an intrusion in their domestic affairs and a great act of discourtesy to the president. It is very unusual and against the normal diplomatic protocol for the head of a foreign state to be invited to address the joint session of Congress (for the third time) without consultation with the White House, and it is most likely that it will backfire and will have the opposite effect to what is intended.
If the Republicans can derail the talks, they would certainly like to do so. However, in some ways, it is better if all the debates and controversy takes place prior to the reaching a comprehensive agreement, because they would be unable to sabotage it later on. In the same way that President Obama’s opening to Cuba has shown, although many Republicans are unhappy about it, once the decision has been taken they will see that their options are limited. Numerous polls have shown that the majority of American voters are strongly in favor of resolving the nuclear conflict with Iran through diplomatic means. The American people know that the alternative to a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Iran will be a climate of heightened hostility, which might ultimately even lead to war with Iran. This is something that the vast majority of Americans oppose, as after Afghanistan and Iraq and now the serious menace posed by ISIS they do not favor another major conflict in the Middle East that would make the earlier conflicts seem insignificant by comparison.
If an agreement is reached, Congressmen will not be able to go against the wishes of their constituents. President Obama’s instinct about the issue is correct and he enjoys the support of American public, as well as all U.S. allies abroad.
Russia and China have always called for the resolution of Iran’s nuclear issue through peaceful means. However, on January 1 British, French, and German foreign ministers, who are the other members of the P5+1 group, and the high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, Frederica Mogherini, in a joint Op Ed in the Washington Post argued against new sanctions on Iran, and pointed out: “... new sanctions legislation at this point would set us back.” Earlier in the month when the British Prime Minister David Cameron was visiting the White House, in a press conference with President Obama, he too strongly opposed new sanctions. Therefore, it seems that the decision by the Republicans to impose new sanctions on Iran has many strong opponents both at home and abroad.
Q: If all the sanctions against Iran are removed during Obama’s presidential term, will the next U.S. administration remain committed to Obama administration’s nuclear agreements with Iran?
A: It depends on how the sanctions are removed. If it is done by an executive order without Congressional legislation, it will not bind the Congress. The president can only suspend the sanctions imposed by Congress, but he cannot rescind them. That would require Congressional legislation. In any case, Congress can always impose new sanctions. However, as pointed out earlier, if the agreement that is reached between Iran and the P5+1 is one that is acceptable to the majority of Americans and to the international community, it is unlikely that Congress would oppose it.
Q: Both sides of the nuclear talks have expressed their optimism about reaching a political agreement by the spring. To what extent can a political agreement pave the way for comprehensive nuclear agreement?
A: It seems that all technical details regarding Iranian nuclear program have been resolved, and all that is needed is a political decision to seal an agreement. It has been established beyond any reasonable doubt that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. All that the P5+1 and especially the Americans are demanding is a long “breakout” period. In other words, they want to have the certainty that Iran will not have the possibility of moving towards a weapons program at some point in the future. Although this requirement is contrary to NPT regulations, in order to reach a comprehensive deal, Iran has said that she will consider it provided that it is for a short duration.
Therefore, the main problem regarding Iran’s nuclear program is no longer a technical issue, but has to do with the political will on both sides to reach an agreement. It should be borne in mind that the negotiations are not only with the United States, but with all the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany. What is essential is that as a part of a final deal, Security Council resolutions are amended within a reasonable time, and European Union sanctions are also lifted. When an agreement comes to force and it is accepted by all the major powers involved, the Republicans whether they are in power after the next American presidential election or not will not be able to go against the international consensus and impose new sanctions on Iran.
Therefore, it is essential for Iran not to fall into the Republican and Israeli trap and fail to reach an agreement, because once a political agreement has been reached it will pave the way for a comprehensive nuclear agreement and even for greater cooperation between Iran and the West on many regional crises. The Middle East is in turmoil, and Iran is a major regional and international player. Therefore, it is in everyone’s interest that the nuclear issue is resolved and Iran is allowed to play a bigger role in establishing peace and security in the Middle East.
... Payvand News - 02/06/15 ... --