September 18, 2015

Panel Weighs Implications of Iran Agreement

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Updated Oct. 9, 2015

Three Cornell professors spoke about the foreign policy implications and historical basis for the controversial Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in Malott Hall Thursday.

(Rula Saeed / Sun Staff Photograher)

(Rula Saeed / Sun Staff Photograher)

Prof. M. Elizabeth Sanders, government, said that because of the United States’ interventionist role in shaping the Iranian government, we “owe Iran” a chance to participate in the international community.

“In 1953, a coup by the Eisenhower administration overturned the first and only secular democracy that Iran has ever had, and we installed a brutal dictator,” she said. “Iran as it is today [is] very a much a product of the United States’ thoughtless intervention, and if anybody owes bringing them back into the international community and giving them another chance, it’s us.”

Prof. Iago Gocheleishvili, Near Eastern studies, emphasized how this agreement marks a turning point in Iran’s diplomatic policies.

“I think Iran is very eager to open up the country and start a better relationship with the United States … if the deal goes through, it will be the start of something greater, something broader, [not only with Europe but with the United States],” he said.

The deal is a compromise but also a gain for both countries, according to Prof. Sarah Kreps, government and law.

“It fulfills both sides’ goals — the United States has a goal of reducing or minimizing the number of countries that develop nuclear weapons especially in the Middle East, and Iran has been under the weight of crippling international sanctions and it will gradually be lifted from those burdens as well,” Kreps said. “I think each side gave up something in this deal, but I think they’re both gaining in the middle as well.”

Gocheleishvili, however, said there are two major weaknesses to the deal from the perspective of the United States.

“The first one is the fact that the deal does not cover military sites … the agreement only covers facilities and sites that are under the authority of Iran’s ministry of energy,” he said. “So, theoretically, Iranians could move engineering parts to military sites [and] away from the eyes of the inspectors.”

He said the second issue is that the deal is simply an agreement, not a treaty.

“It’s an international agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran and some countries,” Gocheleishvili said. “So, in case one of the parties … abandons the deal, we will not be able to effectively use any international tribunals or courts to pressure them to come back to the table of negotiations.”

Gocheleishvili also celebrated the fact that Iran’s civilians will now cease to suffer from the imposed sanctions.

“The sanctions are not really targeting the average Iranian, but the government,” Gocheleishvili said. “It’s usually very difficult to implement targeted sanctions on Supreme leader of Iran, [and] if anyone suffers it’s the regular Iranian.”

Gocheleishvili explained that Iran’s long term associations with Syria are not by choice.

“There is no one else who wants to be their ally. They’re cornered. They’re alone. The only country that continuously supports Iran, even during the Iran-Iraq war, when everyone else supported Saddam Hussein, was Syria. That’s where the loyalties lie,” he said.

He emphasized that Iran has been isolated and is seeking alliances, as all countries should.

“They don’t have any choice — they’ve been excluded from the international community for 35 years, and to survive, they can’t be alone in the region,” Gocheleishvili said. “No one can. We all need allies.”