The woman behind the Iran nuclear deal says the US is undermining its own diplomatic credibilityby Catherine Ashton / November 6, 2017 / Leave a comment
Long before Donald Trump appeared on the scene, Iranian leaders were concerned that the United States might lack a lasting commitment to a nuclear agreement. Almost every Republican presidential hopeful promised to rip up any deal. The Iranians were listening to the growing rhetoric coming out of the United States, as the election grew closer.
In my bilateral meetings with Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, and his predecessor, we talked occasionally about what might happen if Americans elected an anti-agreement president. The subject would also come up when John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, and I met the Iranian team.
Our answer to their concerns was twofold. First, a good deal that delivered what was asked of it, properly monitored and verified by the International Atomic Energy Authority, a highly respected organisation, would speak for itself. There would be no reason to dismantle the agreement. Many other issues with Iran would demand the attention of the US and others, but not this one.
Second, the agreement was not bilateral. There were five other nations, operating as part of a team, given a mandate by the UN Security Council, with the European Union’s High Representative (the post I held from 2009 to 2014) leading the team. Negotiations had begun over ten years before, starting with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the UK, joined by the EU. Iran’s first negotiator was Hassan Rouhani, later to be President of Iran. The US, China and Russia joined the team later, on behalf of the Security Council.
We frequently found that the engagement of each of the six nations was critical. US commitment was necessary, but not sufficient. John Kerry was a brilliant negotiator; but the agreement didn’t belong to the US alone. In every coordination meeting I chaired, we discussed our negotiating mandate, referring back to capitals as necessary. At times the US pushed hard to get other countries to accept elements of the agreement that mattered more to them than others. We worked our way through difficult discussions to maintain a common position.
This was not easy, for our talks took place at a time when the six countries seeking unity on Iran were deeply divided on other issues. For example,…