November 29, 2021

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Iran should not count too much on international law to protect its interests: Hunter

Iran should not count too much on international law to protect its interests: Hunter – Tehran Times

TEHRAN – Shireen Tahmaasb Hunter, a professor of political science at Georgetown University, believes Iran should not count too much on international law to protect its interests.

“Unfortunately, international relations are not based on law, despite much talk about a law-based international order,” Hunter tells the Tehran Times.
“Iran should not count too much on international law to protect its interests and must pay more attention to power equations.”

Talks aimed at reviving the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six other nations are to resume this month after a five-month hiatus.

Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Baqeri Kani said that the Iranian government had agreed to meet in Vienna on 29 November.

The talks to revitalize the 2015 nuclear deal were put on hold since the election of Iran’s new president Ibrahim Raisi in June.

However, it seems the road for talks between Iran and Western powers is bumpy.

“The U.S. is still the most powerful state. Therefore, others are not willing to challenge it, although some of its actions clearly go against international rules and practices,” Hunter notes.

 Following is the text of the interview:

Q: The U.S. administration is trying to blame the Iranian government for avoiding negotiation. But it was the Trump administration that abandoned the pact in 2018 while Iran was fully honoring its commitments. Don’t you think Iran is rightful when it comes to guarantees?

A: Unfortunately, blaming the other side or sides for the failure of any diplomatic negotiation is a common practice of states. Certainly, both the U.S. and Europe would like to hold Iran responsible for the current crisis, ignoring the fact that the U.S. exit from the JCPOA led to Iran’s retaliatory reactions.

In principle, Iran’s desire for some guarantees that the U.S. will not again leave the JCPOA is understandable. But, I don’t believe that the Biden administration would be willing to give such guarantees. Moreover, even if Biden gave such guarantees, a future administration might not abide by it, as Trump did not respect the Obama administration’s decision to sign the JCPOA. The only way Iran could be sure that sanctions would be lifted permanently is to resolve its basic differences and disputes with the U.S. and to establish normal relations with it. Otherwise, the risk of current sanctions remaining in place and even additional sanctions being imposed would remain.

“The problem of Iran’s nuclear program is essentially political and is related to its approach towards the U.S.”Q: According to some reports, the current impasse is not because of an Iranian sense of immunity to pressure, rather it is largely because President Biden is refusing to commit his administration to lift sanction on Iran during the remaining years of his presidency, even if Iran fully complies with the nuclear deal. What is your opinion?
  
A: It is difficult to confirm or deny the report that President Biden refused to commit the U.S. to keep sanctions on Iran lifted for the remainder of his term. However, I don’t believe that the U.S. would make any commitment to lifting sanctions permanently or even for a certain period. Sanctions have become an important instrument of U.S. foreign policy towards its antagonists, of which Iran is one. The only way the U.S. can give such guarantees is if a new treaty on the nuclear issue were signed. But to be valid such a treaty must be ratified by the U.S. Senate, which is extremely unlikely. One reason the Obama administration did not make the JCPOA a treaty was because it was certain that it would not be confirmed by the Senate.

Q: Some critics say the nuclear dispute is not resolvable through technical discussions. This is a political issue that is rooted in distrust between the U.S. and Iran. For example, the U.S. can impose new sanctions under the pretext of a missile program or Iran’s role in the region. This is against what Obama said when he called the nuclear pact an agreement based on technical solutions, not trust. Don’t you think such complicated issues need a certain extent of trust?

A: Most interstate disputes are political in nature, although they may also have technical dimensions. The problem of Iran’s nuclear program is essentially political and is related to its approach towards the U.S. and some regional states. If Iran was not seen as a state challenging the existing international and regional systems, reactions to its nuclear program would have been much less intense. For instance, because Pakistan has by and large good relations with major international actors, including the U.S., and does not threaten any regional state, it has not faced economic and other pressure, although it has developed a significant nuclear arsenal.

Q: Do you predict Iran and the U.S. will agree on a less for less policy or do they need a new different deal in case the diplomatic efforts to revive the JCPOA fail?

A: It is difficult to predict whether a less ambitious agreement could be reached. Washington is under pressure by Israel, and possibly even Saudi Arabia, not to enter such a deal and instead put more pressure on Iran including by threatening military action if necessary. Iran also might not be willing to do so. However, depending on the urgency of Iran’s economic needs, Tehran might accept some economic relief by walking back some of its retaliatory measures, such as reducing the level of its enriched uranium. So such an agreement cannot be completely ruled out.

Q: Do you think the world must accept this reality that successive U.S. administrations may breach their international commitments without being punished?
A: Unfortunately, international relations are not based on law, despite much talk about a law-based international order. Rather they are determined by the balance of power among various actors. The U.S. is still the most powerful state. Therefore, others are not willing to challenge it, although some of its actions clearly go against international rules and practices. Other great powers are also guilty of such behavior. For instance, Russia’s attack on Georgia in 2008 and its annexation of Crimea in 2014 were against international law. Yet, despite some sanctions, Russia was not punished for its transgressions. Even less powerful states are guilty of such behavior, such as Iraq’s attack on Iran in 1980, its canceling of the 1975 Algiers agreement on the Shatt al Arab, and its invasion of Kuwait in 1991. Saudi Arabia’s attack on Yemen in 2015 is another example of such behavior, which has gone unpunished.

In general, Iran should not count too much on international law to protect its interests and must pay more attention to power equations.



Original News : https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/467302/Iran-should-not-count-too-much-on-international-law-to-protect

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