"I am concerned that elections in Iran will install hardliners, who will be less committed to negotiation than President Rouhani," a U.S professor says ILNA.
Joseph Chuman who is a professor in the Religion department at Columbia University believes that since the United States initiated the withdrawal, it should take the lead to restart the talks, adding "The international order, and the Middle East, in particular, would be well served if relations between Iran and the United States were normalized."
Chuman has been the Leader of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County for over 41 years, and a part-time Leader of the New York Society for over seven years. He represented the AEU on the Board of the International Humanist and Ethical Union for twenty years and was a founding leader of the AEU Summer School, being a member of the faculty in 1996 and 1998.
You can read Chuman's full interview with ILNA news agency as follows:
Q: In his campaign promises, Joe Biden declared that Trump's policy toward Iran had failed and that he wanted to return to a nuclear deal with Iran; given the recent actions and stances of White House officials and the President himself, there seems to be no priority on this issue; what is your analysis?
A: I believe it remains a priority of the Biden administration and provisional, exploratory, talks may start soon. President Biden is caught between wanting to re-establish the 2015 accords and members of congress who want additional restrictions placed on Iran, such as cutting back on its long-range missile capabilities and halting assistance to its allies in the region. Of course, the US and Iran remain mutually suspicious of each other which makes resuming an agreement very difficult.
Q: The United States was a country that withdrew from the nuclear deal and even encouraged other countries to do so, while Iran, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, was fully committed to its commitments for a year and beyond. In response to the non-fulfillment of the obligations of other countries, Iran reduced its obligations within the JCPOA; Isn't it the United States that must first return to its commitments?
A: My opinion is that since the United States initiated the withdrawal, it should take the lead to restart the talks. It is understandable that Iran's distrust is heightened, though there is suspicion that Iran had not been in full compliance with the accord either.
Q: The withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear deal and the imposition of sanctions and its continuation, even during the pandemic and the pressure on Iran, has created a kind of distrust among the Iranian people and the Iranian government of the United States; Shouldn't Biden lift some of the sanctions himself or suspend them due to pandemic conditions?
A: A humanitarian grounds, and on humanitarian grounds only, prior to a renegotiation the agreement I believe the United States has an obligation to provide aid to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
Q: what do u think about last decision of Biden about Iran? Does it show his aim to improve relations with Iran?
A: The objective of the US and the other parties to the accord is to ensure that Iran not develop nuclear weapons. Its explicit purpose is not to develop improved relations. Realpolitik is the meta-context for the accords. However, Iran is a major power and a sophisticated civilization. The international order, and the Middle East, in particular, would be well served if relations between Iran and the United States were normalized.
Q: war or diplomacy? Which one is possible?
A: Either is possible. I think diplomacy is more likely. Diplomacy, however fragile and fraught between the US and Iran, has some history. War would be catastrophic, and runs the risk of engaging other powers, viz. Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Q: what is your prediction of US and Iran relations? And what do you think about JCPOA?
A: Neither party is on the side of the angels. I am concerned that elections in Iran will install hardliners, who will be less committed to negotiation than President Rouhani. If this occurs, I cannot be optimist about an improvement of relations in the near or middle-range future. I would like to see a normalization of relations between these two great nations and peoples. With regards to JCPOA, I would like to see it restored. However, I am sympathetic to concerns about Iranian long-range missile technology and Iran's support of some actors in the region, especially Hezbollah and Assad, most of all.