Biden Team, Most Americans Support JCPOA as Win-Win Deal: Ex-White House Official
- November, 23, 2020 - 16:09
- Politics news
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology said the administration of US President-elect Joe Biden and most American people support the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as a win-win agreement.
“I expect that they, unlike the Trump Administration, will be interested in win-win solutions, including reentering the JCPOA if Iran comes back into compliance. They will not be willing to compensate Iran for the economic damage the Trump Administration has done. They, along with most of the American public, consider Iran an adversary but do support the JCPOA as a win-win deal in which both sides win,” Frank N. von Hippel, a senior research physicist and professor of Public and International Affairs, Emeritus, at Princeton University, told Tasnim in an interview.
Following is the full text of the interview.
Tasnim: What approach do you think Iran should take towards the new US government after Donald Trump failed to fulfill Washington's demand to target the country's economy as a result of the Islamic Republic’s resistance?
Hippel: I hope Iran will be open to dialogue with the Biden Administration. I expect that they, unlike the Trump Administration, will be interested in win-win solutions, including reentering the JCPOA if Iran comes back into compliance.
They will not be willing to compensate Iran for the economic damage the Trump Administration has done. They, along with most of the American public, consider Iran an adversary but do support the JCPOA as a win-win deal in which both sides win.
They also will be interested in the possibility of other win-win deals. I have no access to the Biden Team’s thinking but one obvious deal could include Iran formalizing an international agreement to limit the missiles to a range of 2,000 kilometers. That would reinforce the credibility of Iran’s decision not to pursue nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. I would hope other countries around the Persian Gulf would make that same commitment.
I could imagine that the Biden Administration might also be interested in limiting to defensive weaponry the type of assistance Iran gives to Hezbollah - not offensive weaponry that threatens Israel.
These are just my personal opinions.
Tasnim: As you know the US withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018. Don’t you think that Iran’s hasty return to talks with Washington would be deemed as a sign of weakness? and this way the Biden administration will not be willing to compensate for the damage Trump has done?
Hippel: The first step has to be that both sides return to compliance with the JCPOA. That has been Iran’s position ever since the US withdrew.
The Trump position was that the JCPOA was a “bad deal,” that the Obama administration should have gotten more for raising US nuclear-related sanctions on Iran and that the Trump Administration would be able to get more concessions from Iran.
Well, the Trump Administration was not able to get more and it appears that the future Biden administration will be willing to return to the JCPOA on the original terms. If that is the case, then Iran will have won this test of wills, and that could be seen as a sign of Iran’s national strength.
If the US rejoins the JCPOA and Iran comes back into compliance, then both sides should be willing to explore whether there are additional deals they can agree on that will benefit both sides.
It seems to me that this should be possible because neither country wants war, although there are minor elements in both countries who do want war.
We have been dangerously close to war. The leaderships of both Israel and Saudi Arabia have been urging the US to attack Iran, which they see as a threat to them. It would be a win for both sides if, without war, we could reduce the threat to Iran and the threat that Iran’s neighbors perceive from Iran.
I was involved in partially resolving such a situation before: the nuclear confrontation between Moscow and Washington, which came dangerously near a nuclear war at least twice. Both sides recognized the danger and made a succession of deals that reduced it – although here too, the Trump Administration took us backward.
Those deals between Moscow and Washington involved reductions in both nuclear and conventional weapons on both sides. There are no nuclear weapons in the Persian Gulf region, but the US could introduce them and Iran could acquire them. I hope that it will be possible to reduce the risk of nuclear weapons being introduced into the Persian Gulf region and reduce the conventional weapons confrontation there as well. And I hope that we can develop more positive interactions between our two countries, starting with scientific collaborations, student exchanges, and trade.
The Soviet Union and the United States demonized each other. The United States and Iran have been doing the same. Some of your people called the United States “the Great Satan,” and our government has indeed done terrible things – most notably helping overthrow the democratically-elected government of Iran in 1953 in the interests of British Petroleum. Iran too has done destructive things, such as holding US diplomats hostage during 1979-81.
But, like Iran, the United States is a complicated country made up of “doves” as well as “hawks.” The “hawks” communicate easily with each other through threats. The “doves” have more difficulty communicating from a distance. But we must brainstorm about a better future. I see this exchange as a small piece of that effort.
Tasnim: It seems that certain regional regimes including Saudi Arabia and Israel are opposed to any form of rapprochement between Iran and the US. They have reportedly pressured Joe Biden not to rejoin the JCPOA. Why? What are your thoughts on this?
Hippel: I think that the current leaders of Saudi Arabia and Israel see relations with Iran as a zero-sum game, that is, any gain for Iran is a loss for them. The Trump administration saw the situation in the same way. As indicated above, I think the Biden Administration will see the possibilities of win-win solutions.
Tasnim: Do you believe that Republicans and Democrats really differ on their policy towards Iran and the Middle East?
Hippel: There is a spectrum of views among Democrats – and also among Republicans. But there will be a big difference between the Biden and Trump administrations in their attitudes toward Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.
There is broad support in both parties for Israel but I do not expect the Biden Administration to align itself as closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu as the Trump Administration has – especially with regard to the future of the Palestinians and US policy towards Iran.
I also do not expect the Biden Administration to blindly support Saudi Arabia in the way the Trump Administration has. There is a lot of outrage about the human rights violations that Saudi Arabia has committed in Yemen and also about the assassination of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, which is widely believed to have been ordered by Mohammed bin Salman. I expect the Biden Administration to decide whether to support Israel and Saudi Arabia on an issue by issue basis.
In summary, I believe it will be worthwhile for Iran to try to negotiate with the Biden Administration. I hope the result will be a more peaceful, less dangerous world.