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"The sanctions policy toward Iran, this is not likely to go away soon unless there is significant progress on the JCPOA and other issues, such as ballistic missiles and even armed proxy groups," the U.S Professor Karl Kaltenthaler told in an exclusive interview with ILNA news agency.

Kaltenthaler who specializes in international security issues and the politics of the Middle East and South Asia believes that the U.S. and Israeli positions toward Iran are different in important ways. He continued "The Biden administration believes that it can halt Iran’s movement toward nuclear development. While there are diplomatic efforts to show Israel and the U.S. are trying to coordinate policies to some degree. He is a Professor of Political Science and Director of Security Studies at the University of Akron. He specializes in international security issues, violent extremism, and the politics of the Middle East and South Asia.

 

You can read his interview with ILNA news agency as follows:

Q: Donald Trump's departure from the JCPOA has raised concerns among Iranian officials that reviving the JCPOA is futile. What can U.S administration do to restore this trust?

A: There is no way the Biden administration can guarantee that if it returns to a deal with the Iranian government that a future administration will not leave again. This is a concern not only for Iran but also those in the United States who believe that the JCPOA is the best way to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. The way out of this distrust is for there to be a significantly different security posture from Iran. But this is a chicken and egg problem. Iran maintains the defense posture that does because it feels threatened by the United States and its allies, whereas the U.S. and its allies feel threatened by Iranian behavior and rhetoric. It is hard to see this changing soon.

 

Q: Influenced by Naftali Bennett, the Biden administration is said to be reluctant to relinquish its policy toward Iran through diplomacy and he wants to refer Iran's case back to the UN Security Council.  What will be the consequences of adopting such a policy?

A: The U.S. and Israeli positions toward Iran are different in important ways. Israeli policy is based on the supposition that Iran is working toward nuclear weapons capabilities and will continue to do so even if it returns to supposed compliance with the JCPOA. The Biden administration believes that it can halt Iran’s movement toward nuclear development. While there are diplomatic efforts to show Israel and the U.S. are trying to coordinate policies to some degree, the basic difference in how the two countries view Iranian nuclear intentions make true policy convergence impossible. This presents a significant problem for Iran and does increase the possibility of conflict. There already is a shadow war going on between Iran and Israel with assassinations and attempted assassinations.  Hopefully, this does not escalate further.

 

Q: In violation of sanctions on Tehran, Iran aims to continue sending fuel products to Lebanon in the future. Do you think it is not time for US foreign policy to abandon the "Sanctions Option" as a political tool to advance its goals?

A: The Iranian act of sending fuel tankers to Lebanon is a public relations effort on the part of the Iranian government to bolster its support and to show defiance toward the West; its impact on the overall situation in Lebanon is negligible. In terms of the sanctions policy toward Iran, this is not likely to go away soon unless there is significant progress on the JCPOA and other issues, such as ballistic missiles and even armed proxy groups. The sanctions give the U.S. and its allies some degree of leverage over Iran. Giving up the policy of sanctions does away with that leverage. Because of this, the sanctions might be lessened, at some point, but they will not be completely eliminated any time soon.

 

Q: How can the relationship between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency are assessed?  

A: The Iranian government seems to be playing a game of cat and mouse with the agency. This is raising the level of distrust of Iranian intentions.

 

Q: Icy relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are thawing but experts say more work is needed to ease tensions. Do you think the Baghdad summit can help improve bilateral relations between the two countries?

A: It is really hard to say if the talks in Baghdad are improving Saudi-Iranian relations. There have been positive indications about the talks from the Iranian side but largely silence from the Saudis.   Based on the scant amount of information coming from the talks, it is premature to speculate if they are a success or not.

 

Q: The United States was supposed to build a strong army and a moderate and democratic government in Afghanistan; but as in Iraq, the United States and its allies didnot achieve important successes in Afghanistan. What was the reason for this failure?

A: First of all, the U.S. has never had the “intention of ruling the world.” The majority of the U.S. public is actually fairly allergic to foreign interventions and particularly ones that drag on. Some of the recent U.S. interventions were well-thought out and others not as much. The intent was never to permanently occupy Iraq or Afghanistan. But the first U.S. withdrawal from Iraq resulted in the rise and breakout of ISIS. The recent U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan resulted in the Taliban takeover of the country. Neither of these scenarios have been good for the region and Iran as well. Efforts to help anti-U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan might make short-terms sense for the countries that support them, but in the long-run, such efforts are very likely to threaten the security of the countries that support the extremists. To answer the question about the failure of U.S. efforts to build a stable, democratic Afghanistan, two factors need to be mentioned. First, the U.S.-supported Afghan government turned out to be very corrupt and not able to sustain its army. Second, the support the Taliban got from some neighbors of Afghanistan played a very large role in the extremist group’s ability to sustain its operations and eventual victory.

 

Q: Is the US presence in Afghanistan related to freedom and human rights in the Middle East?

A: The U.S. presence in Afghanistan was first and foremost about keeping that country from being a Launchpad for attacks against the U.S. by Al Qaeda or other extremist groups. In order to create a stable Afghanistan and one that aimed to protect the rights of all of its citizens, the U.S. backed the creation of a democratic regime.

The great power competition on the Middle East adds to the instability of the region. But the main source of instability in the Middle East is the competition between countries within the region and sub-national groups within the countries of the region.

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JCPOA iraq saudi arabia Middle East Vienna talks International Atomic Energy Agency Afghanistan sanctions lift US foreign policy 2015 nuclear deal Biden administration Saudi-Iranian relations
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