NIAC Statement on European Powers Triggering JCPOA Dispute Resolution Mechanism

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, January 14, 2020
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

In response to European powers triggering a dispute resolution mechanism over Iran halting compliance with nuclear limits following President Trump’s violation and withdrawal from the deal, Ryan Costello, Policy Director for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), issued the following statement:

“Europe’s complete fecklessness in the face of Donald Trump’s pressure is once again on full display. Unlike the Trump administration that has orchestrated this nuclear crisis, Europe wants to keep the Iran deal alive and has exerted diplomatic energy toward that end, with little to show for it. However, this step is likely to be viewed in Iran and much of the rest of the world as a cave to the Trump administration’s maximum pressure after Europe has continually failed to deliver promised sanctions relief to Iran. This will further reduce Iranian appetite for accommodation with the West and adherence to the Nonproliferation Treaty. Moreover, hawks in the U.S. are likely to seize the dispute resolution mechanism to try to collapse the agreement on faulty legal grounds, even if that is not the intent of European powers.

“All powers need to tread cautiously, lest they risk playing into those intent on collapsing the agreement and all diplomatic pathways with Iran. Keeping the deal alive, and with it a diplomatic opening to resolve broader concerns with Iran, is in the national interest of the United States, Europe and Iran. This shouldn’t change as a result of Europe’s triggering of the dispute resolution mechanism, which risks doing more harm than good. The alternative scenario of a collapsed deal will rapidly escalate already high tensions and make a conflict increasingly inevitable. Europe will pay a high price for any increase in instability in the Middle East and renewed refugee flows.”

NIAC Statement on Iran’s Fourth Reduction in Nuclear Deal Compliance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, November 5, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | (202) 386-6325 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org

NIAC President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement regarding Iran’s announcement that it will reduce compliance with its nuclear deal commitments for a fourth time after the U.S. violation of the deal in pursuit of maximum pressure:

“The announcement that Iran will soon feed gas into centrifuges at Fordow is unwelcome news to all those who have sought to resolve the nuclear standoff diplomatically. This is yet another completely predictable result of the failed ‘maximum pressure’ policy adopted by Donald Trump.

“International concerns regarding the Fordow facility stem from the fact that its construction was covert and, as it is deeply buried, would be less susceptible to military strikes against Iran. However, so long as the International Atomic Energy Agency continues to have access to the facility in order to verify Iranian activities, which appears to be the case, Iran’s move will be provocative but reversible and not a near-term proliferation risk. Iran continues to provide Trump with a way out of his self-inflicted crisis should he summon the wherewithal to bypass his hawkish advisors as well as his own ego and animus towards his predecessor to return to the nuclear agreement.

“This latest escalation underscores the urgency of returning to and restoring compliance with the nuclear deal in full – starting with the U.S. easing sanctions that it reimposed in violation of the accord a full year before Iran started reducing its own compliance with the deal. Failure to do so risks a more complete unraveling of the accord and a steady march toward military confrontation. Only by stepping away from maximum pressure can Donald Trump move off the path to war and reopen diplomatic channels that have been closed by his own strategy.”

Zarif Resignation May Bolster Iran’s Hardliners and Trump’s Hawkish Policies [updated]

Update (3/1/19): Javid Zarif’s resignation has since been rejected by President Rouhani, keeping him at his post as foreign minister. Read more about Zarif’s resignation saga in this week’s Iran Unfiltered

Javad Zarif’s pending resignation as Foreign Minister reflects a hardening posture in Iran following the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). President Rouhani now has to decide whether or not to accept the resignation—and it remains entirely unclear if he will do so. If Zarif reverses his decision in the wake of public outcry over his resignation announcement, which was made on Instagram, he could return with increased legitimacy and decision-making power.

The forthcoming decision on whether or not to accept Zarif’s resignation comes as the Rouhani administration has been warding off hardliners in order to preserve the nuclear deal in negotiations with Europe. As the chief negotiator on the Iranian side, and one of its biggest proponents domestically, Zarif’s resignation would be a boon for radical forces in Tehran who oppose the JCPOA and further engagement with the West. If his resignation materializes, it would further indicate that the political winds in Tehran are favoring domestic hardliners bent on following the Trump administration’s footsteps and leaving the JCPOA. It would also be a major signal that Zarif believes there is little room for a diplomat with his depth of knowledge of the United States and its political system, as there are likely to be no negotiations between the U.S. and Iran until 2021 at the earliest.

Zarif’s resignation also occurs in the midst of a contentious domestic debate over legislation to increase the transparency of Iran’s banking sector and to bring it in line with global standards. However, the bills have been opposed by domestic hardliners affiliated with the IRGC and others who benefit from an opaque banking sector and a sanctions economy. These actors recently threatened to impeach Zarif for linking opponents of the banking reforms to corruption. Zarif’s departure would better enable these elements to keep Iran’s banking system in the dark—ensuring that this key obstacle to Iran’s engagement with the world remains in place for the foreseeable future.

As Foreign Minister, Zarif has defended or deflected many of the most objectionable policies of his government—including the arrests of dual nationals and the country’s backing of the brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who visited with Iran’s Supreme Leader and IRGC Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani today. Any review of Zarif’s tenure as Foreign Minister cannot overlook the abuses of the government that he represented.

However, over the past forty years, the U.S. and Iran have had few clear channels for negotiations, and Zarif has long been a major proponent of U.S.-Iran negotiations and deescalation. Trump’s plan to collapse the deal may indeed be aimed at empowering radicals in Iran. Hardliners in the U.S. have long cheered for Iran to be led by radical elements to make engagement difficult and validate calls for sanctions and military action. Should Zarif bow out of Iran’s political theater, Trump and his team may be getting exactly what they wish for.