Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is spending his final months in office if not reelected. This is while he spent most of his first tenure wrestling with all types of US-led embargoes, trying to have them lifted.
According to a report by Etemad newspaper, as translated by IFP, Iran and the P5+1 group of countries struck a historical deal concerning Tehran’s nuclear program back in July 2015; however, the deal – also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – took several months until January 2016 to be officially implemented.
By implementation, the international restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program were supposed to be lifted and Iran’s nuclear activities would be no longer considered as illegal adventures of a rogue state. One of the JCPOA implications has been normalization of political and trade ties between Iran and scores of countries that had decided to do away with ties with Iranian partners out of fears that they might be targeted by US penal measures for dealing with Iran.
Over the course of the past 12 months, the European Union has spared no effort to revive its dealings with Iran both in political and commercial spheres. The Europeans have always acknowledged Tehran’s undeniable influence and footing in the Middle East as well as its constructive role in restoring peace and stability to the region seen by many Europeans as the energy heartland of the planet.
Since the Implementation Day, European delegations have held series of targeted rounds of talks with high-profile Iranian officials as well as companies in various industrial sectors for bolstering trade ties with a ban-free Iran. Regional concerns as well as human rights topics were also tackled in the talks most recently.
But the course of talks has been somehow interrupted by the election of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, who is rarely a known figure in political circles of the US. Since his election as the next US president, observers are wondering how he would touch on the Iran deal.
We reached out to Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for American and European Affairs, to ask him about Iran’s ongoing talks with Europe in which he is so intensely involved and his view about how Trump’s election would impact the nuclear deal and removal of sanctions.
Here is IFP’s translation of excerpts from Takht-Ravanchi’s interview with Etemad:
Many European companies had kept their relations with Iran on standby to see what would the outcome of the US presidential election be before making final decisions whether to enter Iran or not. The Europeans hoped that the next US president would honor the deal so they would more freely enter a ban-free Iran. Will Trump’s victory in the US presidential election lead to more reluctance by European companies to enter Iran?
There might have been some western companies and banks that anticipated the outcome of the US election to begin their trek in Iran in the post-sanctions setting. However, this has nothing to do with the commitment of the US and European countries with regards to the Iran deal.
Based on the deal, they have agreed to guarantee the successful implementation of the JCPOA and the fact that major European banks have not yet stepped forward to form bonds with Iranian partners is dishonoring the deal on their side; we are currently working on this issue. Following the US election, we have not seen any progress on the part of major European companies and banks in regard to joining Iranian partners.
A few days after the presidential election in the US and announcement of the election results, foreign ministers of the EU issued a statement in which they voiced their full support for the Iran deal. How should the move be interpreted where everyone is worried about how the next US president will consider the JCPOA? Could the statement be seen as a message Europe intended to send to the US?
[EU Foreign Policy Chief Federical] Mogherini touched upon this issue in one of her speeches after the election was over. The statement was released following Mrs. Mogherini’s address. From the viewpoint of Europeans and, of course in our own view, the deal is a multilateral document between 7 countries including the EU representatives.
The JCPOA has also been approved by the UN Security Council which has given it some sort of international authenticity. This means that no one can come out one day and say they do not acknowledge the deal as a good one and then decide to reconsider the whole process of its finalization alone and start off new rounds of talks. This would be utterly preposterous and completely unacceptable.
The EU, Russia and even the Obama administration have supported the deal. This means that those who have been involved in the process of the deal do recognize its international weight and see it as multilateral document.
The recent statement by the EU showed their total opposition to violation of the deal and that they stress that everything must keep going based on what has already been agreed through the deal. This is the stance Iran has favoured, as well.
How much can we rest assured that the Europeans will keep supporting the deal in case the US might decide to renege on its JCPOA commitments?
Given the fact that the statement is issued by three European countries besides the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who were involved in the Iran talks, we can be certain that the statement is of some validity by itself. But predicting the future is always difficult. In our point of view, the deal can neither be renegotiated nor denied. If any country decides to disregard the deal, then we would act using our own methods. Iran’s Leader, for his part, has openly expressed his views about this issue as well.
Trump’s proposed cabinet members are famous anti-Iran politicians who have opposed any deal with Iran. If the US decides to violate the JCPOA in any manner like failing to live up to its commitments regarding the deal, imposing new sanctions on Iran, and so on, then will the support of Russia, China and the three European signatories of the JCPOA be enough to ensure continued implementation of the deal?
Well, the sanctions expected to be lifted by the JCPOA have been decided already. Except for the UNSC and EU sanctions regarding Iran’s nuclear program, the US secondary sanctions are supposed to be lifted based on the deal and the US is obliged to remove them. These sanctions include those ordered by the US president and those passed by the US Congress against Tehran.
Based on the 2231 UNSC Resolution, the next US president is required to continue lifting these sanctions and any failure to do so would be an outright violation of the JCPOA, meaning the US would be responsible before the people of the world for violating the deal.
Iran, for its part, believes that the deal needs to be honored by all its signatories and the failure of any of the signatories would make others’ respect for the deal meaningless.
There are certain observers inside the country that believe Iran has not benefitted from the post-sanctions atmosphere as much as it should have. Except for American companies, have our ties with European partners really undergone any changes since JCPOA implementation or the changes are only on paper?
Everyone in the country expected to see all the problems solved immediately after the Implementation Day. That expectation must have been addressed in a different manner at that time. It took westerners years to build up the anti-Iran atmosphere in international arenas. One cannot expect to have all the negativity wiped out immediately against Iran.
Add to this the US mischief and dishonouring of its promises which have made things even more complicated for Iranian businesses to interact with international partners.
Speaking of trade ties with European partners, I have to tell you that things have certainly changed and cannot be compared with the past. Besides restoration of Iran’s crude oil exports to Europe, new trade deals have been inked over the course of the past year with Europeans and things are progressing with European companies. Though, major European banks are still evading Iranian clients for reasons I have already spoken about, which I wish will be resolved soon.