January 19, 2019

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US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal: Comments from the US State Department

By Guido Lanfranchi.

On Wednesday May 9th, the United States State Department updated the international press on President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal. Mr. Andrew Peek, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and Mr. David Tessler, Deputy Director of Policy Planning, interacted with the journalists on this topic.

On May 8th, 2018, the US President officially announced the intention of the United States to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also knows as the Iran Nuclear Deal. In a teleconference with journalists from all over the world, US State Department officials Andrew Peek (Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs) and David Tessler (Deputy Director of Policy Planning) answered a series of questions on President Trump’s decision.

Andrew Peek, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

Mr. Peek started the teleconference by explaining the main reasons behind the President’s decision. He explained that the problems with Iran on the nuclear side were judged to be “insurmountable,” and that the JCPOA “did not sufficiently constrain Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon.” To the contrary, he stressed, the sanctions relief fed into Iran’s malign activities across the Middle East, thus prompting the US to reimpose sanctions that were previously waived under the JCPOA. These sanctions, he precised, will be reapplied in about three months, in order to give sufficient times to businesses involved in Iran to wind down their operations. Before opening the floor for questions, Mr. Peek also clarified that the aim of the sanctions is to increase the pressure on Iran in order to bring about a better, more holistic deal.

During the teleconference, several question focused on the disagreements between the US and its European partners. Mr. Peek repeatedly stressed the largely shared views that the US and its European allies hold concerning the threats posed by Iranian, also stressing the significant degree of communication among the partners ahead of President Trump’s announcement. He then defined the recent negotiations with European countries as a building block to move forward, towards a next phase of engagement with the Europeans over Iran. Mr. Peek also repeatedly stressed that the process of imposing sanctions, which has been already widely applied by the US in the past, will be an iterative one, in which the US will try to strengthen its collaboration with its European partners gradually.

Asked about the potential consequences of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, Mr. Peek explicitly stated his wish to avoid specific speculations on the future. Rather, he stressed that the strategy of the US will be to use economic pressure as a tool to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, thus avoiding potentially disastrous situations. He also clarified that the US policy on Iran is not aimed at a change of regime, but rather at a change of the regime’s behavior. Finally, the press questioned Mr. Peek on the consultations between the US and its partners, and especially the E3 (Germany, France, United Kingdom), Israel, and Turkey, ahead of President Trump’s announcement. Mr. Peek expressed his wish to avoid get into details on the consultations, which are confidential issues. However, he stressed that extensive consultations were held between the US and all its partners before the May 8th announcement.



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