Code: 891464 A

Former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Professor Frank N. von Hippel says that although technically the US sanctions aren’t supposed to impede medicines, do so because of the financial sanctions affect every transaction.

 In an exclusive interview with ILNA news agency, the Princeton University professor said, "With regard to the coronavirus, however, there are no medicines yet so countries can help each other but also each country has to organize to help itself and its neighbors."

Here is the full interview of the Princeton University professor with ILNA news agency about basic impact on the nature of current international relations:


Q: There are increased calls for the United States to suspend economic sanctions against Iran due to coronavirus crisis. Why didn't Donald Trump respond to this request?

A: I understand that the US sanctions, although technically they aren’t supposed to impede medicines, do so because of the financial sanctions affect every transaction. With regard to the coronavirus, however, there are no medicines yet.  We have to use old-fashioned measures such as quarantines and social distancing.  The technical requirements are tests, and disposable face masks, gowns and gloves for health workers.  There is a shortage of these throughout the world.  The US is far behind other countries in developing large-scale testing and short on masks as well. Iran may be in the same situation. These are things on which countries can help each other but also each country has to organize to help itself and its neighbors.


Q: The “Maximum Pressure” policy is designed to disrupt the Iranian economy. Will the US government abandon such a policy?

A: I agree that Trump should change his policy but I worry that the Administration is too divided over Iran policy to be able to negotiate effectively.


Q: Why should the United States bother thinking about the Iranian-American negotiation?

A: On the US side, I hope that former Vice President Joseph Biden will defeat President Trump in our November election. I believe that Biden would bring the US back into the JCPOA.  Then, I hope that we could build on the JCPOA to deal with the nuclear issue in a permanent manner and that the US would inform Saudi Arabia that we will not automatically take its side in every dispute. Then perhaps Iran and Saudi Arabia could reach some kind of détente of their own.

On Iran’s side, however, I worry about the hard liners are taking control and turning their backs to the world.  The negotiations with the hardline Bush Administration were fruitless and the negotiations with the Obama Administration were as well until President Rouhani was elected.  I hope we don’t have to go through such a period again. Trump and the US government are constantly talking about negotiating, but each day they are putting more threats against Iran. So Iran reduced its obligations in response to these threats.  Some in the Trump Administration would like true negotiations but too many equate “negotiations” with Iran’s surrender.  I think that is the obstacle on the US side. I imagine that there are obstacles on Iran’s side as well.


Q: European leader can convince Trump to change his policy at the end?

A: The European governments definitely want the JCPOA to continue – as do many Americans like me.  But the US market is more important to the European companies than Iran’s market. The Trump Administration has forced those companies to choose and the European governments have been unwilling to force them to choose Iran’s market.


Q:  What are the political, economic and social consequences of chaos and war in the region?

The situation is already awful. If the US and Iran were to blunder into war, the situation would become much worse. The US government is divided on this.  Majorities in both house of Congress have voted for resolutions that would block President Trump from going to war with Iran.  The language is slightly different and will have to be reconciled.  The Senate language "directs the President to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran or any part of its government or military, unless explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force against Iran."  The vote in the Senate, which is controlled by President Trump’s party, was 55 to 45. President Trump can veto the bill. The Senate would have to mobilize at least a 67 to 33 vote to override such a veto but the majority vote sends a strong political signal.  Also, I think that President Trump does not himself want a war.  He can be manipulated, however, by people such as Secretary of State Pompeo, who want regime change in Teheran, so the situation remains very dangerous.


Frank von Hippel is theoretical physicist, and a Professor of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Prior to working at Princeton, he worked for ten years in the field of theoretical elementary-particle physics. From 1993 to 1995, he was the Assistant Director for National Security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He now serves on the National Advisory Board of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the research arm of Council for a Livable World. He is a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials.


JCPOA US sanctions economic sanctions Maximum pressure coronavirus outbreaks coronavirus epidemic Former assistant Princeton University professor Frank N. von Hippel Iranian-American negotiation war in the region
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