US Strategy to Abuse JCPOA

2020/05/09 | interview, political, top news

Strategic Council Online: A university professor says the United States is trying to provide a legal argument that is purely political in nature, whereby to secure the short-term goal of extending Iran's arms embargo. "If they fail to extend these sanctions, they will try to activate the trigger mechanism, if possible, so that if they could not use it during their term in office the next administration can use it.

Dr Majid Mohammad Sharifi, in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, referring to a report published in the New York Times, said the translation of the word ‘Return’ to mean the return of the United States to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and then using its capacity was wrong. The Americans want to reconsider JCPOA clauses so that they can use their capabilities to advance their larger goal.

He added that when the United States withdrew from Iran’s Nuclear Agreement (JCPOA) it imagined it would not take long for them to put maximum pressure on Iran to bring it to its knees and back to the negotiating table. “A year later, during a review of the ‘pressure policy’, Trump was informed that the policy was not working the way Washington desired. So they entered the second round of pressure by trying to increase sanctions and reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero.”

The professor added: “As this process continues, some of Trump’s hardline advisers, including Richard Goldberg, who is mostly based at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, have devised a strategy whereby to increase Iran’s sanctions so much that even if Trump is not elected in the second round, the next president of the United States will not be able to lift the sanctions so easily. So they sanctioned Iranian individuals and companies with various labels, including nuclear, terrorism, and human rights.

Mohammad Sharifi said that seven months to the US presidential election, Washington suddenly realized that the policy of maximum pressure did not work as they wanted and according to the JCPOA by October 2020, Iran’s arms embargo would end. With the expiry of the arms embargo, Trump comes under fire for pulling out of the JCPOA and giving Iran a chance to seize the opportunity to end its arms embargo.

He added: “The Americans have concluded that they need to take a new resolution to the UN Security Council so that they can extend Iran’s arms embargo. The first step in what Pompeo talked about is that the draft resolution was made available to other members of the Security Council, except for Russia and China.

The international affairs analyst noted that the Americans’ problem was that the resolution was already dead and a failure from the beginning, as Russia and China would certainly veto it. Russia has said it will enter into an arms deal with Iran after the end of its arms embargo.

He continued: “The Americans have said it is true that they had withdrawn from the JCPOA but we are still participating in the agreement and a partner. With such an argument, they can use the “trigger mechanism”. The origin of this vision was July 2019, when Marco Rubio, along with another senator, said in a letter to Trump that we could still use the trigger mechanism. Even then, when they wanted to hire someone in the State Department, they put pressure on Pompeo that we would only allow him to be hired if you implemented the plan. At the time, members of the administration acknowledged that the United States was not a member of the JCPOA and could no longer use the trigger mechanism.

Mohammad Sharifi said now that the Americans were in trouble, they have demanded a review of the JCPOA with an aim to provide a legal argument for it. “This legal argument is something that Richard Goldberg emphasizes most,” he said. He believes that Security Council Resolution 2231 introduces the United States as a so-called permanent partner of the UN Security Council to use the trigger mechanism, which can be used forever. Also, if you put the resolution aside, it has more legal value, because it is binding on everyone. However, the JCPOA is a political agreement between a limited number of governments and the resolution encompasses the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

Referring to some allegations made by the International Atomic Energy Agency against Iran in March, he added: “David Albright, a member of the Institute for Science and International Security, who maintains tough anti-Iran positions, insists that these statements should be used as the legal basis to activate the trigger mechanism. The remarks sparked a serious legal debate.

In International Law, Obligations Are Based on Rights

“Even the former French ambassador to the United States said that Goldberg’s interpretations were completely wrong because the JCPOA and the UNSC resolution are a united component and that one country cannot say it is not a member of the JCPOA but it wants to use the resolution,” he said. The resolution was issued because of the JCPOA and does not have an independent legal personality, and in international law, commitments are based on rights.

To prepare the ground, Wendy Sherman wrote in the New York Times that the United States could probably use this right and confirmed that Washington had such a right. The analyst said the then director of the White House jurists had said in an interview in 2015 when the Iran Nuclear Agreement was signed that the United States could legally activate the trigger mechanism. There has been much debate between opponents and proponents, but overall the views of the Goldberg opponents prevail, as their legal argument is stronger, but the issue is purely political, and its political aspect overrides its legal aspect.

Referring to Goldberg’s article in Foreign Policy journal to the effect that if they wait, the UNSC resolution will be certainly vetoed by Russia and China, and there is not enough time to activate the trigger mechanism due to the upcoming presidential race in the United States, he said: “They are really looking for extending Iran’s arms embargo as much as possible and, if this did not happen, will try to activate the trigger mechanism if possible. If all these efforts do not succeed, they will provide a basis for the next president. If Biden wins in the election, it will probably be easier for European countries to work with him, and the pressure on Iran will increase.

He added: “The Americans have devised a strategy based on which they will put a process in front of the governments and tell them if the trigger mechanism and imposition of all the sanctions are worse for you, you could agree to extend the arms embargo. This may be tempting for the governments.”

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