Use of force by US as tactic of diplomacy unlawful

Tehran, Dec. 20 (MNA) - An American professor of international law said the Biden administration’s decision to return to the JCPOA depends on whether it is prepared to pay the diplomatic and domestic political price of it.

Richard A. Falk, American professor of Emeritus of international law at Princeton University said in an interview with Mehr News Agency that Iran’s demands in the new round of negotiations with P4+1 in Vienna, are sincere, deserve respect, and are mandated by international law and the UN Charter, and Tehran has done nothing wrong that would warrant punitive actions or coercion.

He also noted the fact that how willing the Biden administration is in returning to the original JCPOA depends on how it maintains balance between the benefits of such agreement and the domestic pressure accompanied by the friction with the Zionist regime.

What follows is the full text of the interview.

Apparently, Iran has taken a constructive stance on the Iranian nuclear issue and has sent a delegation to take part in the new round of negotiations on removing sanctions. However, the US and Western countries still criticize Iran for not being serious enough in the negotiation. How do you evaluate Iran’s performance in the negotiation?

It is difficult to assess these public statements made by both sides with reference to the Vienna Talks. It appears to be a pre-negotiating communication with media platforms and public opinion, as well as in the US case a way of blunting Israel’s criticisms for any negotiations with Iran that might lead to the restoration of the 2015 Nuclear Agreement (JCPOA), the end of sanctions, or improved relations between the two countries. We do not know how motivated the US and Iran are to give ground so as to reach an agreed outcome. The degree of negotiating flexibility and the red lines will become more obvious as their respective preconditions for agreement are put forward in the negotiations.

Having acknowledged this obscurity, I believe the main burden is on the US to demonstrate its sincerity and credibility. In 2018 US formally and unilaterally withdrew, Trump, having repudiated the agreement as soon as elected in 2016, and subsequently authorized various unlawful covert operations in violation of Iran’s sovereign rights, as well as supporting Israel’s threats and uses of force against Iran. In this sense, it is vital that the US demonstrate its good faith, including a willingness to offer some sort of guaranty against a second repudiation of the JCPOA that might be combined with the reimposition of sanctions should the Republican Party return to power in 2025. A US commitment to oppose any Israel’s future hostile acts directed at Iran would be welcome.

Iran insists on the removal of all nuclear-related sanctions. Will the US do so? In fact, do you see any real political will in the US to reach an agreement    

I believe the US does seek stability in the Middle East. The question is whether it is prepared to pay the diplomatic and domestic political price of increased friction with Israel accentuated by the added difficulties with Congressional allies of Israel claiming a weakening of ‘the special relationship’ that the US has long maintained with Israel and the Biden presidency has reaffirmed. It is less the absence of political will to reach an agreement, but the need Washington evidently feels to weigh the balance between the benefits of such agreement against the strong pushback in the US led by Trump-oriented Republicans. After the problematic withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, Biden is also sensitive to allegation from the American right that he is projecting an image of American weakness and global decline.


Iran has repeatedly stressed that the core purpose of the new round of negotiations is to lift sanctions against Iran and get Iran’s economic and trade activities back on track. How do you evaluate this appeal of Iran?                     

I think the genuineness and justification of this pursuit of normalcy on Iran’s part is sincere, deserves respect, and is mandated by international law and the UN Charter. Arguably, Iran has done nothing wrong that would warrant punitive actions of the sort taken or the kind of coercion embedded in the ‘maximum pressure’ approach to the Trump presidency. It is unlawful to threaten or use force as a tactic of diplomacy, and Iran has been constantly threatened, economically harmed, and politically destabilized by such tactics, and by the imposition of sanctions that have inhibited foreign investment and trade by third-party countries.

Iran says the text of the 2015 JCPOA should be the cornerstone of the Vienna talks but the other side, in fact, is after a new 2021 JCPOA. How do you assess these excessive demands?

On its face, these US demands are unreasonable considering that it was its unilateral, unprovoked act that led to the breakdown of the agreed arrangements embodies in the 2015 JCPOA framework. Iran should not be politically expected to accept new conditions and constraints that impose new limits on its freedom of action in a 2021 or 2022 new version of the former agreement.

The argument for new conditions is to take account of Iran’s technological advances, its enhanced enrichment capabilities, and its alleged closer approach in knowhow and time to acquisition of nuclear weaponry. It is notable that the CIA director has recently declared that there is no evidence that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability. Nevertheless, the expiration of the 2015 JCPOA in 2030 is sufficiently close that there is pressure on the US, especially from Israel and anti-proliferation extremists to insist upon a longer termination date of 25 years from the time that a new agreement is signed.


Biden administration says it is not going to guarantee that the US will not withdraw from the possible future agreement like what Trump did. And even some in Washington are threatening to kill any agreement that Biden may reach. How do you assess the US stance and its effect on the talks’ process?  How may U.S. domestic competitions ruin any chance of reaching a good nuclear pact?

I think this risk of a future obstruction of an agreement within the US is very high. The prospect of Republican electoral success in 2022 and 2024 elections cannot be disregarded.

Such outcome would undoubtedly raise pressures for restoring the Trump approach to Iran and an overall approach to Middle East politics more in accord with Israel’s preferences. It may be because Biden accords priority to domestic issues, including COVID, public funding of infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports, renewable energy), and improved race relations that the US will continue to adhere to its version of a hardline approach with regard to both the Vienna negotiations on nuclear issues and in its overall relationship with Iran. At the same time, the US Government seems likely to engage in crisis management if the talks breakdown, and may believe it will have enhanced leverage to restrain Israel if it maintains the present status quo with Iran, meaning no new agreement and no sanctions relief. I think this would be dangerous and lead to a downward spiral in the Middle East that could produce.

Interview by Amir Mohammad Esmaeili 

News Code 182006

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