In a written interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations (SCFR), Professor and Co-Director of Program on Global Security at Princeton University and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Frank N. von Hippel shed light on the futility of US efforts in activating the snapback mechanism and the latest developments in the Persian Gulf region.

Hippel reiterated that even if the US succeeds in activating snapback mechanism, it will not change the situation because other powers will not cooperate with Washington unless it succeeds in provoking Iran to leave the deal.

On the normalization of relations between the UAE and Israel, the professor said the move by the Emirates is motivated by its desire to forge an alliance with Tel Aviv against Tehran.


Q1: How do you evaluate US attempts to activate the snapback mechanism in UNSC Resolution 2231 against Iran?


I think they represent an effort to provoke Iran to leave the JCPOA before a possible Biden presidency so that a President Biden could not bring the US back into the JCPOA.


Q2: Considering US withdrawal from the JCPOA two years ago, are Washington’s legal and political arguments in achieving the snapback mechanism valid?


In making the argument that the US can trigger a snapback even though President Trump took the US out of the JCPOA, the Trump Administration has further isolated the US from the rest of the world.  The problem is that there appears to be no international authority that can rule on the legality of this argument.  Therefore, it becomes a matter of power politics.

Q3: What are the opponents’ argument and approach in blocking US efforts and who do you think would win this diplomatic battle?


I don’t know what will happen in the UN Security Council.  The US strategy appears to be to propose a resolution to continue the suspension of the sanctions and then veto its own resolution, which would trigger the snapback. Possibly, the Dominican Republic, the only country aside from the US currently on the Security Council that has not expressed itself in opposition to the US on this matter, will propose the resolution in exchange for benefits from the US.  Given that Indonesia and Niger, which will chair the UN Security Council in August and September respectively, do not support the US in this matter, perhaps they will not allow the US or the Dominican Republic to propose the resolution.


If the Trump Administration succeeds in carrying out its strategy, however, other states will not cooperate with the US on sanctions beyond what they already are doing as a result of US pressure.

I hope the snapback will not happen but, if it does, I expect the Europeans would do no more to comply with the Trump Administration’s demands than they are already doing.  In practical terms, therefore, the snapback would be meaningless, unless the Trump Administration succeeds in provoking Iran to leave the JCPOA.


Q4: What message or signal is the US unilateralism at the Security Council sending to international organizations, institutions and world order?


This is a very cynical move but consistent with the Trump Administration’s foreign policy, which operates in disregard of international opinion, including the opinions of the United States’ historically closest allies.


Q5: Why did Britain, France and Germany suffice to an abstention in the UNSC voting on US draft resolution for extending Iran arms embargo despite their strong opposition against US measures?


I think that they abstained, in order to not to unnecessarily further worsen their relationship with the United States. They did the minimum they had to do to defeat the US move.

Q6: How does Europe see the US election in November? Is this the real reason that the EU Trio did not vote against the US draft resolution at the Security Council?

The European governments are very unhappy with the Trump Administration’s diplomacy toward them and the JCPOA.  I imagine that they would be happy to see Biden become president, but it would not be appropriate for them to say so.  Above, I have given my best guess about the reason for their abstention in the vote on extending the UN Security Council arms embargo against Iran.

Q7: What are the implications of normalization of relations between UAE and Israel for the region order? Is this deal tactical or strategic?



This only makes official the long-time unofficial posture of the UAE that joining Israel in opposition to Iran is more important than opposing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.


Q8: Do you believe that the official announcement on the normalization of relations between UAE and Israel is related to Iran?


I think the main motivation from the UAE side is to have an alliance with Israel against Iran.

Q9: Has this announcement anything to do with the forthcoming US election, so that Trump could use this as a foreign policy achievement in his debates with Biden?


It probably does but I think it will be a relatively small factor in determining the result of the US election.  Probably, it is also an effort by the Trump Administration to give Prime Minister Netanyahu a victory as he fights corruption charges in Israel and as he supports Trump’s reelection.