Matthew Evangelista is political science professor in Cornell University. He is also Professor of History and Political Science.
Below is his interview with ILNA:
ILNA: What is your assessment of the Iran nuclear agreement that was signed in 2015?
I think the agreement was an important accomplishment, although only a first step. To reduce the nuclear danger overall, there need to be more efforts by other states toward, for example, creating a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East and reducing the arsenals of the United States and Russia, who together possess the vast majority of nuclear weapons.
ILNA: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) so far approved Iran's compliance with the provisions of the agreement, but why Tramp called this agreement as worst deal and has left it?
Trump’s opposition to the agreement is not based on a serious analysis or critique. Rather, he is motivated by two major factors: 1) to reverse the legacy of any accomplishments achieved by his predecessor, Barack Obama (including, for example, in US domestic politics, his health-insurance reforms); and 2) to pursue policies favored by Israel and Saudi Arabia.
ILNA: White House officials have accused Iran of violating human rights and claim that sanctions do not include humanitarian action, while the international while sanctions target directly the lives of the Iranian people. What is your assessment of this dual behavior?
A major problem with sanctions is that they risk harming ordinary citizens who are not responsible for the governments’ policies. The idea of “smart” or “targeted” sanctions constititutes an improvement. The US government can not, however, expect other states to go along with its preferences for which countries to punish and for which reasons. The UN Security Council endorsed sanctions only in regard to Iran’s nuclear program, not its internal human-rights policies or its foreign policies. The United States has no justification for continuing sanctions against Iran because they are no longer supported by the UN. On the contrary, since Iran is apparently in compliance with the nuclear agreement, the United States should fulfill its side of the bargain and lift the sanctions.
ILNA: How do you assess Iran's role in combating terrorism in the Middle East, especially in the fight against ISIS?
Iran has been involved in fighting against ISIS, especially in Syria, but it has done so by supporting Bashar al-Assad, which, although the legal government of Syrian, has been engaging in brutal attacks against its own citizens (not only terrorists, but peaceful protesters as well), including the use of indiscriminate bombing (“barrel bombs”) and chemical weapons. So, unfortunately, in its fight against terrorism, Iran has allied itself with a regime that carries out terrorism against its own people.
ILNA: What is your prediction of European efforts to maintain trade with Iran
It seems that European companies and European states want to trade with Iran, and they oppose US efforts to continue sanctions.
ILNA: To what extent does America's sanctions against Iran lead Iran to the east instead of the West?
I assume that Iran will seek to trade with any countries that are willing to do so. It will mean loss of trading opportunities for the United States, and for Europe as well, if there is no way around US banking restrictions.
ILNA: How do you think the political future of someone such as Donald Trump, who did not adhere to any of his international obligations, would be like?
Donald Trump’s political future will probably depend more on how voters and other political figures assess his domestic policies. The United States has been inconsistent with its adherence to international obligations, dating long before Trump, so that should not be a major factor in his political future.
ILNA: The European Union has announced that the Special Financial Mechanism (SPV) will be implemented soon. What is your assessment of this mechanism? And how much do you think PSV could help IRAN countering US sanctions?
It seems to me that such a mechanism would be essential for fostering trade between Europe and Iran in the face of US opposition. It is important to have trade that is not dependent on the US dollar and the US-dominated international banking system (e.g., SWIFT).
Althogh Moghermini had promised that this mechanism would be operational by end of 2018, it is not yet came into force. Is it not this a sign of disloyalty?
I am not sure whether the delay is intentional and signals a change of view in Europe, or whether the practical problems are making establishment of the mechanism take longer. I imagine that the EU is under considerable pressure from the United States not to go ahead with it.
ILNA: Do you think SPV could solve IRAN's oil trading problems?
I think it would help.
ILNA: what is your prediction of relation between Iran and USA? Is war possible?
I do worry about a US attack against Iran, given the hostility of John Bolton and Pompeo. My own view is that it would be a disaster and very unpopular in the United States.
ILNA: How do you analyze Warsaw summit that is supposed to be held in February? While it is said that aim of meeting is to solve Middle East problems, but Major powers in the region do not participate in the meeting. Will the US decide for the region? Mogherini has announced that she will not attend the Polish summit. Is this a viable political solution?
I don’t think the meeting in Poland makes any sense if it excludes Iran, if Russia does not participate, and if the EU has doubts about it. It does seem mainly intended to put pressure on Iran.
ILNA: The hosting of the Polish summit will take place at a time when the promise of European countries to continue to trade with Iran has not yet been completed. How do you justify this?
Some Eurpean countries, such as Poland and Hungary (and possibly Italy) have become increasingly authoritarian and “populist” and have come in some respects to resemble the style of Donald Trump and his political supporters, such as Steve Bannon. But my impression is that most European countries and the EU as a whole do not share the anti-Iranian approach of the Trump administration.
Interview by: Niloofar Adibnia