On October 2nd, the international day of nonviolence, Abolition 2000 held its fourth webinar on issues related to our goals of eliminating nuclear weapons and nuclear power, this time on the crucial issue of the Iran Nuclear Deal, the JCPOA, which came into force in 2015 and which President Trump has apparently dedicated his presidency to destroying.
Three speakers: Emad Kiyaei from the Middle East Treaty Organisation project; Tarja Cronberg, from the SIPRI European security program, and; Jamal Abdi, president of the US-based, National Iranian American Council, shared their thoughts on how we have reached the situation we’re in, what the different interests in play are, and how events may pan out in the near future, with the 2020 NPT Review Conference on the horizon. The webinar was moderated by Abolition 2000 committee member, Sharon Dolev.
Kiyaei gave an account of how the JCPOA came into being and what it achieved; in return for an end to economic sanctions, Teheran would voluntarily submit itself to the strictest monitoring and inspection regime of any country on the planet. The JCPOA was seen as a fantastic coup for multilateralism and non-proliferation and a blueprint for how to deal with other countries in the future that may wish to stray down the path of nuclear weaponry. Trump’s strategy, according to Kiyaei, puts at risks the entire structure of international diplomacy by undermining multilateralism and replacing it with a bullying approach to international relations. Of course, his unilateral approach isn’t limited to Iran as Trump has also seen fit to tear up the Paris Climate Agreements and the INF treaty, among others. Such a strategy is pushing Iran to perhaps evaluate that there is no way to alleviate the pressure of sanctions through diplomacy, something which could possibly lead to Iran abandoning the NPT in the near future. This course of action, would of course also undermine all attempts at resolving conflicts across the entire region in which Iranian support of proxies can be identified. The JCPOA was key to bringing Iran back into the world community of nations. This possibility now hangs by a thread.
For her part, Tarja Cronberg, gave a European perspective on the subject, explaining how it had been European efforts that started the negotiations, allowing both the US and Iran to avoid the accusations of appeasing the enemy by covering themselves with the respectability of multilateral diplomacy. Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA effectively destroys the agreement because the US are sanctioning any company from trading with Iran with the threat of not being able to trade in the US. For Cronberg, the very issue of nuclear diplomacy is at stake, for this reason the EU and the P5+1 partners must ensure that the JCPOA survives.
Jamal Abdi wound up the interventions, describing US policy under Trump as a con game and that what truly motivates US foreign policy has been exposed, namely the ability to sell weapons to allies in the region. Arguments of human rights, national security and the War on Terror are all smokescreens behind which arms deals can be done. But for Abdi, the fact that Trump pulled back from the brink of armed conflict with Iran after recent tensions in the Straits of Hormuz, and with Iran bringing down a US drone, forced powers in the region to establish a much more pragmatic approach to Iran. After decades of aggressive foreign policy in the region, believing that the US would always support any anti-Iran rhetoric, suddenly it is clear the Trump will not rush to war, despite his advisors egging him on. The problem we are faced with now is how to get the US to back down and re-enter the JCPOA before it’s too late. Certainly it is clear throughout the world that the high-pressure tactics used against Iran are not working and that a US unilateral approach to diplomacy is counterproductive. Far from Iran intensifying its position as world pariah, the US increasingly appears to be taking on that mantle.
The session ended with an interesting exchange of views during the Q and A, with all agreeing on the need to salvage the JCPOA in order to protect the NPT, which although under intense pressure, is still the biggest forum for international nuclear disarmament issues.
You can access all the presentations made during the webinar at this link.