Code: 939139 A

"Iran's foreign minister is undoubtedly a very skilled and shrewd diplomat," the Associate Professor Department of Political Science Clark University told ILNA.

Michael J. Butler who is a member of the Governing Council of the International Studies Association-Northeast says that President Trump himself is fixated on undoing the JCPOA because it was a signature foreign policy accomplishment of the Obama Administration. He believes "Certainly Joe Biden Administration would be amenable to restoring the JCPOA." 

Butler research and teaching interests converge in the areas of conflict and conflict management, foreign policy, security studies, and active learning pedagogy; you can read his interview with ILNA news agency as follows:


Q: President Trump increases pressure on Iran and his administration never offer sanctions relief to Iran. Why doesn't the President of the United States think about reducing tensions with Iran?

A: I think it is pretty well-documented that the Trump Administration – and at this point it appears that there is no one left in the Administration that will challenge him, so really it is largely just President Trump himself – is fixated on undoing the JCPOA because it was a signature foreign policy accomplishment of the Obama Administration.  Trump himself has indicated as much in his incessant tweets on the matter. 


Q: Why Trump administration and its allies want to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran beyond October 2020?

A: The justification Secretary Pompeo and others in the Administration have provided is that the attacks on the Saudi oil fields as well as in Yemen have been carried out with arms illegally supplied and transferred from Iran.


Q: China and Russia oppose an embargo extension against Iran. Will Beijing and Moscow veto the US bid?

A: Certainly they can, and will, within the bounds of the UN Security Council.


Q: Donald Trump's Iran policy is exposing the EU's weakness. Is Europe capable of confronting the United States about Iran?

A: It depends what you mean by ‘confront.’  Diplomatically, yes – for example, the German permanent representative to the UN Security Council, Christoph Heusgen, referred to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA as a violation of international law.  I doubt Germany, France, or the EU itself will escalate the situation beyond that, but Europe has made its position – basically, that the status quo ex ante on the JCPOA should be restored – known, as well as repeatedly expressing opposition to the various provocations from the U.S.  At the same time the Europeans continue to criticize the behavior of the Iranian regime in the MENA region and domestically.


Q: The IAEA has repeatedly stressed that Iran is committed to its commitments. What does the recent statement of the Board of Governors mean?

A: The IAEA statement is based largely on assertions that its inspectors were denied access to certain facilities in Iran, in contravention of the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Though a statement that should be taken seriously, I consider it fairly typical of the IAEA, which is a body that operates largely on the basis of voluntary compliance by NPT member-states.  Statements such as this represent an attempt to secure that compliance – a signal, if you will. 


 Q: Joe Biden is leading Donald Trump in the national polls as the US approaches its next presidential elections. Who will win the 2020 U.S. presidential election and what will happen to the nuclear deal with Iran?

A: Both of these are very difficult if not impossible to predict. Certainly Joe Biden Administration would be amenable to restoring the JCPOA, though frankly there are many other more pressing matters from the U.S. perspective that would be a greater priority.  Let’s remember too that a return to the JCPOA framework would also require a shift in behavior, and possibly attitude, on Iran’s part.

Regarding the election; certainly the polls indicate that Trump is in trouble, but they said the same thing in 2016.  There are other indicators of this though, including mounting challenges from some Republicans as well as former (and rather hardline) members of his Administration on national security matters.  Frankly, there are so many weaknesses in, and threats to, the electoral process in the U.S. that to me the outcome seems very murky.  It is also an open question as to what Trump will do if and when an election outcome in which Biden were the victor were to be certified. 


Q: Will US pressure on Iran increase tensions or not?

A: I don’t think there is any doubt about that. This actually might be an ulterior motive of the Trump Administration, given the president’s declining approval ratings – a ‘rally round the flag’ dynamic.


Q: What do you think of Zarif's remarks at the UN Security Council? 

A: Zarif is undoubtedly a very skilled and shrewd diplomat.  His reference to Mosaddeq and the 1953 coup plays very well to a domestic audience.


JCPOA Russia China Trump Administration 2015 nuclear deal Iran arms embargo
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