“The situation is highly regrettable. The USA should certainly not have withdrawn from an agreement freely arrived at, technically sound, endorsed by a binding UN Security Council resolution and, until now, fully implemented on the Iranian side. However, when I was a child I learned a simple moral truth: two wrongs do not make a right," Dan Smith told Tasnim in an interview.
Dan Smith has a long record of research and publication on a wide range of conflict and peace issues such as nationalism, identity politics, armed conflicts, ethics of intervention, gender aspects of conflict and peacebuilding. In recent years, his work has broadened to encompass other contemporary issues such as the relationship between climate change and insecurity, peace and security issues in the Middle East and global conflict trends. Smith has served four years in the UN Peacebuilding Fund Advisory group, two of which (2010–2011) were as Chair. He has lived most of his adult life in the UK with a 10-year spell in Norway. He has traveled professionally to more than 60 countries.
The following is the full text of the interview.
Tasnim: Iran has announced that it will begin suspending more nuclear commitments and surpass uranium stockpile limit set by JCPOA from July 7. It means that Tehran will no longer be bound by its commitment to enrich uranium up to 3.67 percent and will begin developing its Arak heavy water reactor based on its pre-JCPOA plans. The West, Washington in particular, has been seeking to create the image that the move by Iran is tantamount to a nuclear breakout. This is while Tehran insists that the steady suspension of commitments is in line with the country’s non-military objectives and plans to reach scientific independence. What is your take on this?
Smith:The situation is highly regrettable. The USA should certainly not have withdrawn from an agreement freely arrived at, technically sound, endorsed by a binding UN Security Council resolution and, until now, fully implemented on the Iranian side. However, when I was a child I learned a simple moral truth: two wrongs do not make a right. It is easy to understand that US withdrawal from the JCPOA is provocative and the reimposition of sanctions vindictive but if Iran, in turn, breaks the agreement, it loses. Whatever the motivation behind Iran’s step-by-step suspension of commitments within the JCPOA, the appearance is not good. Iran will lose support and sympathy if it continues on this path.
Tasnim: Given the fact that the US sanctions have restricted Iran's access to medical and health services, don't you think that Iran has the right to return to the 20-percent enrichment and produce radiopharmaceuticals?
Smith: It would still be preferable to act as bound by the agreement. Recall that the agreement was endorsed by the UN Security Council in a binding resolution. True, Iran faces great difficulties and the other signatories have been less helpful than Iranian authorities hoped and expected. But by remaining in the agreement they would maintain the high-ground position and, should the 2020 US elections produce a different administration, Iran (and the other signatories) would be well-placed to restore the full functioning of the JCPOA with American cooperation. This is most unlikely to happen if Iran’s actions take it further and further from both the letter and the spirit of the JCPOA.
Tasnim: US President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that Iran “can’t have nuclear weapons”. Iranian officials and experts argue that the US’s main aim is not to halt the country’s nuclear and military programs but to deprive it of nuclear technology and know-how. What are your thoughts on this?
Smith: Quite obviously, if the US President wants Iran not to have nuclear weapons, his wish has already been fulfilled. Therefore, either he is misinformed or he has another motive. It is worth pointing out that President Trump has always painted the JCPOA as his predecessor’s agreement and he does seem intent on undoing whatever President Obama had regarded as his administration’s achievements. But that is certainly not the whole story.
US motivation is also strategic. It is possible that there is a US interest in restricting Iran from any and all access to nuclear technology but I would suggest that evidence indicates the US is thinking on a larger scale. More broadly, the US seeks to limit Iranian influence in the region. Indeed, the fact that the JCPOA does not limit Iran’s regional influence is one of its critics' major arguments against it. I see the withdrawal from the JCPOA and the reimposition of sanctions as being among the means used to further that larger agenda.