Sputnik discussed the talks between the Iranian and French foreign ministers with Anoush Ehteshami, Professor of International Relations in the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University.
Sputnik: What is your assessment of the talks between the Iranian and French foreign ministers, considering the harsh statements by the French administration about the missile program?
Anoush Ehteshami: I think there's a two, if you like, pronged process going on here, one is both parties wanted to speak for the domestic and international constituencies, for Iran's foreign minister to assure his constituency that Iran is not bending or yielding to pressure and for the French foreign minister to show, particularly, to nervous European audiences and also the American audience that France is talking tough and taking a firm position, I won't call it a hardline, but a firm position on the issues that are of concern to the Americans. On the other side of it is, I think, both Iran and the European Union, and France, Germany and Britain in particular, who are invested in this deal as the core partners of it are trying desperately hard to ensure that the agreement and the nuclear deal is not scuppered and that they can find ways of maintaining it in its current form but if they need to make adjustments, to do it as seamlessly as possible as not to ruffle feathers in Iran or elsewhere.
Sputnik: President Donald Trump has set a May the 12th ultimatum for the European signatories to change the agreement, threatening to withdraw from it if it's not approved, does it need improving? How can it be improved? What does it say about the US commitment to the agreement?
Anoush Ehteshami: Technically as long as Iran is reported back to the IAEA, the agency in Vienna, as compliant, that is to say that it is not diverting enriched uranium, it is not amassing material of that nature and that it's brought all of its facilities under direct observation, then there's nothing in terms of violation of the agreement. As you know, as far as the deal has been in place, the IAEA has reported back on a regular basis that Iran remains compliant, so as long as it is the case, then the Iranian side rightly says that it's sticking to the letter of the agreement as it stands. The argument arises when the Americans talk about the spirit of the agreement. As you know the preamble of the agreement talks about the nuclear deal providing the conditions for confidence building in the region and talks about all the things like Iran's involvement in the region and its missile program, but those are not written in the deal as it stands, so if you're being technical about it, then technically Iran is going by the various articles of the agreement as they stand, the Americans are saying that the deal was not negotiated properly and now that we are seeing that Iran is aggressively pursuing its missile program from their perspective, then surely something is wrong with the deal, and that is a gray area that several European powers are trying to come to terms with.
Sputnik: Can you give us your point of view with regard to what could be the possible repercussions then, what are the repercussions if the US withdraw from the accord does happen?
Anoush Ehteshami: I think repercussions are quite extensive on so many levels. On the one hand, if the United States walks away from something that has the United Nations endorsement, as you know the deal has gone to the UN, has been approved by the UN as an international treaty, if the United States walks away from this because it doesn't like the terms of this treaty then it leaves a very bad taste internationally that then it can walk away from any treaty that its former Presidents have signed.
The United States walking away from this leaves its European partners, its closest allies, its NATO allies in a pickle in that they have in good faith stood side by side by the United States and through no fault of their own have been thrown to the dogs in the international community by the narrowly defined interests of an American president, where European interests are now being challenged by this unilateral American action, leaving European allies very vulnerable to pressure within Europe itself but also from countries like Iran, like Russia, China that you guys don't have the power, the capacity to stand as a separate independent pole in this emerging international system.
By undermining this deal which has now limited Iran's abilities in nuclear R&D and building its infrastructure is limiting the proliferation of nuclear know-how, and for Europe, for the IAEA, for Russia, for China and also the US this has been good news, it has limited proliferation. With the US walking away from this deal what you're doing is essentially taking the foundations away from the regime that is trying to limit proliferation. And who is to say that in tomorrows world North Korea or any other country would actually accept any restrictions on its nuclear activities were this to come to pass. Any international regime that comes into force that is part of a binding treaty can unilaterally be scuppered like this and leave that country completely vulnerable. So nobody is going to come out of this looking good or smelling of roses, and on so many levels, as I've said, American actions are going to be questioning the global order as it is emerging.
The views and opinions expressed by Anoush Ehteshami do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.