Code: 622102 A

If Iran wants to have any hope of dealing with it's economic issues, it can only do so by remaining in the JCPOA, at least for the short-term, Birmingham University Professor told ILNA.

Scott Lucas became Professor of International Politics in 2014, having been on the staff of the University of Birmingham since 1989 and a Professor of American Studies since 1997.

He began his career as a specialist in US and British foreign policy, but his research interests now also cover current international affairs- especially North Africa, the Middle East, and Iran- New Media, and Intelligence Services.

A professional journalist since 1979, Professor Lucas is the founder and editor of EA WorldView, a leading website in daily news and analysis of Iran, Turkey, Syria, and the wider Middle East, as well as US foreign policy.


ILNA: Trump did not withdraw from JCPOA on the previous occasions. What caused the White House this time, in return for the previous occasions, to order the withdrawal?

The difference this time is the shifting balance of officials in Trump's Cabinet. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary James Mattis, had pulled Trump back from withdrawal on several occasions in the past year. But McMaster and Tillerson have been replaced with John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, both of whom favor a harder line with Iran.

ILNA: How did public and high-ranking officials have reacted to Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal? Could the political and international consequences of emerging from leaving JCPOA lead to Republican defeat in the midterm Congressional elections in November?

Politicians who generally support Trump will back this decision; those who oppose him will express dismay. What is striking beyond politics is the consensus among experts -except commentators with think tanks that have consistently opposed any deal- that US withdrawal is a damaging move for stability in US-Iran relations, the Middle East, and the international community.

However, I don't think much of this will touch voters in November's elections. Few know much of the detail about Iran, let alone consider the issue a priority for their ballot.

ILNA: In the last weeks leaders of the European Union made intense efforts to persuade Trump to stay in JCPOA. And after Trump announced his withdrawal, many EU officials fiercely reacted to this decision. Along with this, we witnessed disagreements between the United States and Europe over issues such as NATO, the transfer of embassy to Jerusalem and business relations. Could this be a serious divide in the relations between the parties and the flow of more Europeans to Iran?

This is an important question, not just for this agreement but for international relations in the next decade.

Europe is in a key position where it can help save the deal if it maintains and encourages economic links with Iran. But will it risk the punishment of US sanctions to do so?

ILNA: Federica Mogherini announced yesterday that Europe will work hard to keep things going. What do you think Europe should do in this way? What is the European version of this?

European diplomats- both in the European Union and states such as the UK, Germany, and France- have made clear that they will remain in the deal.

But political support is not enough. European states will have to decide if they will support economic links with Iran.

And for that to happen, Iran will also have to meet European concerns about 1) the length of some provisions in the JCPOA; and 2) the need for a separate agreement on ballistic missiles.

ILNA: In his speech yesterday, Trump announced that, in addition to imposing sanctions on Iran, anyone who has economic cooperation with Tehran will be punished and boycotted, even Europe. Will Europeans be able to protect nuclear deal in this situation?

That is the vital question: will European states risk billions of dollars in fines on their companies to maintain a working relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran?

ILNA: In the face of the Trump’s decision, Iran provisionally decided to remain in the JCPOA minus the United States. Was that the right decision? How long do you think Iran will remain in this deal? What other options does Iran have about this matter?

If Iran wants to have any hope of dealing with its economic issues, it can only do so by remaining in the JCPOA, at least for the short-term. The Islamic Republic of Iran can not count on a reliance on countries such as Russia, China, and India to deal with questions about trade, investment, and productivity.

ILNA: In last weeks, Iranian President, Hassan Rohani, and Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, have talked about the possibility of Tehran leaving Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Do you take that option to be practical? What will be the aftermath of this action in the international arena for both Iran and United States?

As with any departure from the JCPOA, Iran's withdrawal from the NPT would signal that it is ending the hope of working with many countries in the international community on political and economic issues.

ILNA: How do you assess the impact of America’s withdrawal on the Middle East equations? Will we be witnessing increasing tensions between Iran and U.S in regions like Syria and Iraq?

I have no doubt that the possibility of confrontation has increased with US withdrawal from the nuclear deal- officials who are behind the withdrawal, such as John Bolton, welcome that confrontation. But do officials in Iran want confrontation?

Iran has options: Like increase its challenge to Saudi Arabia. But those options all carry costs and risks- from economic strain to the possibility of a military conflict with Israel.

ILNA: Did Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates play a decisive role in withdrawal of the United States? Do you think Israeli lobbyists played a determinant role in this matter? 

I think some in Israel, such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, encouraged this decision. But remember that in Israel and in Saudi Arabia, there are many officials who favored maintaining the deal rather than giving it up and risking instablity.

So I think the primary reasons for the withdrawal were within the Trump Administration, not from the outside.

Interview: Kamran Baradaran


JCPOA Scott Lucas
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