Iran should capitalize on the International Court of Justice’s ruling against the US, urging Washington to implement it as a precondition for beginning of any bilateral talks.
The ICJ ruling orders Washington to allow for the exports of agricultural produce as well as airplane spare parts and equipment to Iran. The court verdict also obliges the US not to obstruct the issuance of permits on financial exchanges and the transfer of money pertinent to the above-mentioned products. Moreover, the ICJ injunction obliges both sides to refrain from taking any action that might intensify conflict between the two countries until a final ruling is issued. In practice, it means the US must not impose oil sanctions as well as other planned bans for the coming month. The ICJ ruling is legally and politically valuable, and will strengthen Iran’s moral position. However, the verdict, or injunction as you may call it, will become more valuable for Iran only when the Islamic Republic can take advantage of it on the diplomatic front.
I believe at this juncture, the best way to capitalize on the verdict is that Iran – possibly with the backing of the European Union – should set the implementation of the ICJ ruling as the “minimum required precondition” for negotiations with Washington. In other words, Iran can demand that the implementation of the ruling be the least sine qua non for proving the US government’s abidance by international law and accepting Washington’s “legal competence” to enter into fresh talks and, hence, put the US on the defensive.
Such a move, i.e. setting the implementation of the ICJ ruling as the minimum required prerequisite for talks, will have several advantages for Iran.
1. In the best-case scenario, setting such a precondition – which basically has a legal nature and is based on the verdict of the most important international judicial authority, will give Trump and the United States’ political apparatus a chance for a decent retreat. If this decent retreat happens, it will create many diplomatic and political opportunities for Iran.
2. Even Washington’s rejection of the precondition will have numerous benefits for Iran. Failure to implement the precondition, which amounts to a lack of respect for the ruling of the most important international judicial body, will make the public opinion and Western governments more determined in backing Iran. In fact, since Iran’s precondition is a legal one and emanates from the UN Charter, it will be difficult and costly for the US to reject it. Moreover, it will be very easy for world governments and Western politicians to support it.
3. This precondition gives pro-diplomacy and pro-multilateralism currents in the US the chance to resist the Trump administration’s policy of unilateralism and bellicosity with a new argument, and even use different statutory levers against it. As a case in point, if the Democrats gain control of Parliament in November, pro-JCPOA Democrats will, by presenting motions and issuing resolutions, get the chance to push the Trump administration toward implementing the ICJ ruling, i.e. Iran’s precondition, or at least trigger a raucous legal/media battle against it. They could even resort to courts inside the United States to make the Trump administration implement the new law. Furthermore, civil activists inside the US, universities, prominent figures, veteran politicians and NGOs can also resort to the ruling – especially with a focus on the court order to refrain from fuelling tensions and paying attention to the humanitarian aspects – to pressure the US government and the ideological circle of its foreign policy in order to make it settle its dispute with Iran peacefully. The EU and the United States traditional allies will also be able to hold consultations with Washington – with an eye on the ICJ order – to ease tension with Iran.
4. Iran’s precondition, i.e. the execution of the ICJ order, will indubitably face the 12 preconditions set by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which have no legal and logical basis, and, hence, will give more strength and legitimacy to Iran’s position. In fact, the more legal Iran’s position appears, the less illogical and unfounded the Trump administration’s position will seem. The association of the court verdict with Iran’s precondition is an opportunity to further expose the difference in the nature of the foreign policies of the two governments.
5. The association of the court ruling with Iran’s precondition will not only create numerous promotional opportunities on the diplomatic front, but also bring about good chances when it comes to the utilization of other international mechanisms. Accordingly, some observers’ focusing on the axiom that the execution of the ICJ ruling cannot be guaranteed, or that no mechanism would make the US respect the injunction, suggests a one-dimensional and incomplete look at international relations. If fact, if the court ruling were not important for Washington, and noncompliance with the ruling wouldn’t be costly for the US, the US government would never bother to appear in court and defend itself. Put it simply, it is necessary that Iran act in such a way that this important international document does not lose its significance.
In fact, it is required that Iran’s diplomacy apparatus be careful not to allow this ruling to have a fate like that of other long-forgotten verdicts such as the famous and important ICJ ruling about Israel’s so-call separation wall in 2004, of which, unfortunately, no proper diplomatic, political and even advertising advantage was taken. In other words, it is necessary that all political factions and currents in Iran give the country’s diplomatic apparatus, which has pulled off such a great victory for Iran, a chance to utilize the ruling from now on, as well.