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'Both Republicans and Democrats oppose new Iran nuke deal without modifications'
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 12 - 11 - 2020

It is a position cutting across party lines in the United States not to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal without changes, a senior American diplomat told Emirates News Agency (WAM), adding that addressing Tehran's missile program and regional behavior in a new agreement will make a better deal.
Elliott Abrams, Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela at the US State Department, also said the UAE's Iran policy based on "de-escalation and stability" in the region is a stand "for all of Iran's neighbors that is what you seek, and that is what we seek."
In an exclusive interview with WAM at the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, he emphasized that the US plan to sell F-35 fighter jets to the UAE would take place without any problems and that the "process will roll out very smoothly."
As many commentators believe that President-elect Joe Biden would reconsider the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA, which was signed with the P5+1 — the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany in 2015, Abrams said: "I think that there is no desire on the part of the United States simply to return to the JCPOA without changes or modifications. I think that is a bipartisan position in the US."
He pointed out that the JCPOA was concluded in 2015. "Even if you liked it in 2015, it really does not serve in 2021 and there will have to be changes, so I think it is not a one day matter. It's a complicated and somewhat lengthy negotiation."
Abrams was in the UAE as part of his regional tour that also included Saudi Arabia and Israel. He met with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Thursday.
A veteran diplomat who served various Republican regimes, Abrams was a deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor in the administration of President George W. Bush, where he supervised US policy in the Middle East for the White House.
He was an assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration. He has authored five books on topics related to US diplomacy and foreign policy.
Incumbent US President Donald Trump announced in 2018 his country's withdrawal from the JCPOA, causing extreme controversy.
About a possible new agreement with Iran, Abrams said: "We think that Iran is feeling the pressure (of economic sanctions) and if that leverage is used, it will be possible to get them to agree to do things they don't want to do, namely to change their behavior in the region, their missile program, and their nuclear program."
However, the veteran diplomat added: "It would be a tragic thing to discard all of this leverage without using it."
Asked whether addressing Iran's missile program and regional behavior in a new agreement will make a better deal, he answered: "Absolutely," adding: "We believe in the Trump administration that one of the great shortcomings of the JCPOA is that it dealt with (only) one piece of Iran's behavior that had terrible long-run possibilities (the nuclear program)."
"It (the nuclear deal) did not deal with what we face right now, which is an Iranian nuclear program that is actually producing ballistic missiles, and we see them in the hands of the Houthi (militia in Yemen) who used them under Iranian guidance and instructions to hit Saudi Arabia. We see all of this a destabilizing conduct throughout the region, right up to the Mediterranean," Abrams continued.
"That has to be addressed before we can say that we have any kind of reliable agreement with Iran that will actually bring stability."
The US government announced officially this week that it plans to sell F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, which has been a hot topic since Abraham Accords saw light in August.
Asked about this step, Abrams said: "Well, the procedures take a while. The critical thing, of course, is first with the administration then the Congress. Once that happens it's more or less noncontroversial."
Regarding the time required for the transaction, he clarified: "It's bureaucratic, let me put it that way. There is the manufacturing time. It's not as if the F-35s are sitting in a hangar in the US and then as soon as Congress approves it, they would fly out. Unfortunately, that is not the case."
However, he does not find any problems with the deal. "I think this (delay) is bureaucratic. The process will roll out very smoothly as it has done in the past. Happily, we have a very good defense relationship between the US and the Emirates, and we've had many experiences where many administrations approving a sale, sending it to Congress, and getting it approved. We now have happily many American armaments here, helping defend the United Arab Emirates."
Commenting on the illegal Iranian occupation of three Emirati islands since 1971, the American diplomat said the UAE Government has been "extremely responsible in handling" the case.
"They (UAE government) offered either direct negotiations or take it to a neutral party like the International Court of Justice. This is a responsible way a country acts when it is faced with this kind of behavior by another," he added.
"Unfortunately, thus far, the regime in Tehran has refused to engage in serious discussions. It's something that every country in the world that seeks peace and stability in this region should condemn." — WAM

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