Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is likely to survive despite immense economic and political pressure by the United States against Iran and five other signatories of the landmark agreement.
Dan Smith, whose organization hosted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during his Sweden visit on Wednesday, said Washington – under President Donald Trump – was undermining an accord that was enshrined in a United Nations Security Council Resolution.
“I think what is clear is that the Trump administration has clearly rejected an agreement his predecessor came to, which is actually part of a UN Security Council Resolution that is binding upon all member-states,” Smith told Press TV on Wednesday.
“So it is questionable as to whether the United States legally has the right to withdraw from the agreement,” Smith continued.
He also pointed out Zarif’s second biggest gripe over Europeans’ inability to deliver their end of the bargain by protecting trade against US sanction.
“While the European Union and the European member-states who signed up to the JCPOA, while they supported continuation, they have found that because of the integration of the world economic system and the strength of the US dollar … they have found it’s impossible to as of yet provide the kind of the financial roots for trading and investment,” he argued.
Washington abandoned the landmark deal in May 2018, when Trump said he was going to use sanctions and other measures in his power to force Iran into renegotiating another deal that addresses the country's missile program and its growing role in the Middle East region.
Zarif noted during a speech at SIPRI that the Trump administration is unpredictable and does not comply to the international law.
He said Iran behaves in a predictable manner and expects predictable behavior in response.
Since Trump's exit, Iran has ruled out the possibility of revising the current JCPOA or negotiating a new one. It has also warned the other signatories -- the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany -- to either salvage the deal by meeting their commitments or watch the Islamic Republic also stop implementing the JCPOA.
While China and Russia have signaled that they would continue trade with Iran at highest possible levels, the UK, France and Germany have been struggling to come up with a response to US pressure.
They had promised Iran that they would continue trade as usual using a special payment channel called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) but have yet to make it operational months after its much-delayed official launch in January 2019.
In a display of impatience with the Europeans, Tehran has on two occasions reduced its commitments under the JCPOA in accord with mechanisms that the agreement provides for dealing with non-compliance, including increasing its enriched uranium stockpiles beyond the 300-kg limit and enriching uranium to purity levels beyond the 3.67 percent agreed in the deal.
Zarif defended Iran's response to the non-compliance at the SIPRI and said the third stage would bring about bigger changes.
"If the other side violates the deal we have a right at a remedy to reduce our commitments to the deal," he argued. "This is written in the deal."
Smith said on Wednesday that Iran, despite deciding to cut back on its commitments under the JCPOA, was determined to stay in the agreement.
“Iran is trying to remain within the terms of the JCPOA and reducing its commitments very carefully in stages,” he said.
“I think it is possible that the JCPOA will in some form survive and I take very seriously the commitment of the Iranian state in the fatwa that it will not have nuclear weapons,” he said. “That is the main concern that existed rightly or wrongly in the international community before the JCPOA.”
Under the fatwa (decree) issued by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Iran announces that its long-established policy is to oppose acquisition, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons.
Smith said it was not easy to predict the fate of the nuclear deal before the 2020 US presidential election, where Trump will have to fight off a crowded list of Democratic heavyweights for re-election.
Some of the Democratic hopefuls have already announced their support for the JCPOa, pledging to return to the deal if elected.
Military response not the best option for Persian Gulf tensions
Asked about Zarif’s remarks that foreign troops led by the US could not guarantee the security of shipping in the Persian Gulf, Smith said while he could see the point of Washington’s attempts to put together a patrol force, a military solution was not the best option.
“I think we can all understand the economic interest in the movement of oil and other cargos in the [Persian] Gulf,” he said.
“I cannot agree that the first best step to take is a military response and I cannot agree that the first best step to take is a unilateral and one-sided military response,” he continued.
He called on all sides to sit down and negotiate a way out of the current situation, where he said the policies of different regional and trans-regional actors pit them against each other.
“At some point, political reason and political clarity of thinking has to be shown to sit down and talk because that is the way that this problem will be managed just by talking and coming to an agreement not by deploying naval forces whether they are this international coalition or that international coalition,” he concluded.
The United States and Britain have been shopping for support from Asian and European allies to corner Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital passage way for global oil supplies.
The Trump administration has pledged to bring Iran's vital oil exports down to zero, but the shipments have continued to reach major customers, especially in Asia.
Tensions in the Persian Gulf flared up after a series of suspicious attacks on oil tankers, following the US deployment of a new naval group and B-52 bombers to the region amid claims of unspecified Iranian threats.
Zarif decried the US military presence in the region, asserting that it would increase insecurity.
"No amount of foreign military presence (in the Persian Gulf) can prevent insecurity in this region. Security is a common global commodity. We have to accept either security for everybody or insecurity for everybody," said the top Iranian diplomat.
"You cannot have an island of security by your fleet in the Persian Gulf when the United States is waging an economic war against Iran. When the United States is forcing countries to seize our ships in Gibraltar, in the Suez Canal, in Singapore. That's insecurity. Global security is intertwined."