Iran Review Exclusive Interview with Trita Parsi
Trita Parsi is an award winning author and the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. He is the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council and an expert on US-Iranian relations, Iranian foreign politics, and the geopolitics of the Middle East.
Iran Review had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with Dr. Parsi about US Senate’s new bill (Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013), differences between the US Congress and the White House, Iranian parliament’s (Majlis) drafting of new bill for raising the level of uranium enrichment to 60 percent, and resolution of deep-rooted differences between Iran and the United States.
Iran Review: There seem to be two different approaches to Iran within the political system of the United States. One the one hand, the White House has announced that adoption of any new sanctions against Iran will damage the diplomatic process that is currently being followed in dealing with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, the White House leaders argue that the Congress and Senate should not uphold the imposition of such new sanctions against Iran. Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary and spokesman, has emphasized that even if such sanctions were adopted by the Senate, US President Barack Obama would veto them. On the other hand, a group of the US senators have presented a new bill, called “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013,” in an effort to pave the way for the imposition of new sanctions against Iran. On the opposite, another group, consisting of 10 US senators, has opposed it. To what extent the existing differences between the US Congress and the White House may influence the implementation of the recent nuclear agreement, which was struck in Geneva, and affect any favorable result that may come out of it? Is this a real battle of power, or just a mere show, or neither of these two possibilities? Is this just a passing difference in opinions which will be overcome in time?
Trita Parsi: This is a real difference. There are lawmakers who due to partisan reasons seek to undermine every policy of President Obama. They do so on a daily basis on other issues as well -- this is not unique to Obama’s Iran policy. There are also lawmakers whose vie of the nuclear issue is much closer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They oppose the idea of a compromise and seek Iran’s total capitulation. There are also a few Lawmakers who seek to undermine the current negotiations in order to eliminate all options except the military option.
President Obama’s relations with Congress as a whole is rather strained. On the Iran issue, he also faces some opposition from Democratic lawmakers. As the talks continue, this will likely prove to be one of the key challenges of diplomacy -- Obama’s ability to deliver on sanctions relief that require congressional approval.
Q: In parallel to the adoption of such hostile positions by certain American officials on Iran, a group of the Iranian lawmakers at the Iranian parliament (Majlis) has drafted a new bill which obligates the Iranian administration to raise the level of uranium enrichment to 60 percent. A second bill has been also proposed which envisages an increase in the number of centrifuges operating in Iran's nuclear facilities. The lawmakers have announced that these two bills aim to meet the country’s nuclear needs in such areas of industry, medicine and agriculture. The bills, the lawmakers argue, look to the future and aim to facilitate Iran's progress in the aforesaid fields. How do you assess the outlook of such bilaterally retaliatory measures taken by Iran and the United States?
A: It is very unfortunate to see the Iranian parliament adopting similar tactics as the US Congress. These bills -- whether Senate sanctions or Majlis measures -- are highly problematic. Focus should now be on ensuring the success of diplomacy rather than preparing bills that would guarantee its Failure.
Q: As time goes by, continuation of sanctions against Iran and dawdling in lifting them by both the United States and the European Union can undermine the position taken by the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in defending the recent nuclear agreement with the P5+1 group. What is your opinion about the future outlook of the ongoing process? Where do you think efforts for the resolution of deep-rooted differences between Iran and the United States should start from?
A: Mindful of the positive news form this past weekend, clearly diplomacy is gaining momentum. But the real tough negotiations will begin in a few weeks when the final accord is to be discussed. I remain hopeful that it will succeed. Clearly, the task is difficult, but the gains for both the US and Iran are overwhelming, while the loss both sides will incur in case of failure is staggering. In short, diplomacy offers the best possible outcome for both sides -- both from a geopolitical and from a domestic political perspective. Rarely have the stars been so well aligned for a thaw in US-Iran relations.
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