Gigot: Let’s start with the European statement this week. How significant is it about Iran policy?
Dubowitz: I think it’s very significant. As you know and the viewers know, the Europeans have been opposing the Trump policy of walking away from the Iran deal and imposing maximum pressure but because of the Iranian strikes against Saudi oil facilities, which really is an attack on global energy supplies on which the world depends, they are moving closer to the President’s position and I think this is a reminder to the Iranians that they will be increasingly isolated if they continue their malign activities.
Gigot: So this basically takes off the table any of the ideas of providing tax credits that the French president had had for Iran to help them get over sanctions. But what needs to happen now from the Europeans if we really want to continue to pressure Iran. What should they do next?
Dubowitz: Well I actually think, Paul, they’re going to continue to try to convince President Trump to offer sanctions relief in some form.
Dubowitz: :Yeah, I think the French are not going to give up on this, they’ve floated this idea of a 15 billion dollar credit facility that the Iranians can draw down on, which needs US permission in order to operate. I think they’ll continue to try to push this idea, to give the Iranians sanctions relief to come back to the table but I think what the Europeans really need to do is send a stark warning to the Iranians that if they continue to escalate on the nuclear side, the Europeans are going to walk away from the nuclear deal and if they continue striking at global energy resources and infrastructure, the Europeans are going to snap back their own sanctions.
Gigot: Is the President likely to take that invitation from the French even after the strike on the oil facilities, I mean the President was looking to really talk to Hassan Rouhani, the President of Iran, at this UN meeting but it didn’t happen.
Dubowitz: It didn’t happen and it’s a good thing it didn’t happen, and I certainly think that the President isn’t going to allow himself to be blackmailed by the regime in Iran and offer them billions of dollars merely for the opportunity to come back to the table. So I hope that the President sticks to his guns and makes it very clear that unless Iran comes back to the table to negotiate a comprehensive agreement, based on the President’s terms, then the maximum pressure campaign is going to intensify.
Gigot: I was at a media breakfast this week with Rouhani, with several members of the press, and he was asked about negotiations with Trump, and he said “we will not negotiate unles the sanctions are lifted.” Of course, when you lift the sanctions then they have less incentive to cooperate. So, do you see any bend in the Iranian position from here?
Dubowitz: I see some bend because I think the Iranians recognize that they are facing imminent economic collapse.
Gigot: It’s that bad? That’s a fairly forceful statement – imminent economic collapse?
Dubowitz: Yeah, I think the Iranians are in a situation where they are running out of foreign exchange reserves, they’re not going to have the money to pay for imports that they need to run their factories, with factories closing they’re going to have massive unemployment, and so their situation is getting worse every day. And I think the administration, with a few moves, could actually bring about that kind of economic collapse which will then put the regime in a position where they’ll have to choose between negotiations and the survival of its regime.
Gigot: Now one of those actions is so called snapback sanctions which were part of the original 2015 deal but that involves the United Nations, does it not? Explain how that would work and what it would mean?
Dubowitz: So the way it works is under the Obama nuclear deal, the one good thing that the President negotiated at the time was a unilateral snapback, the ability of the United States to unilaterally snapback UN sanctions against opposition from Russia, China, or even Europe. So the United States can still move unilaterally to snapback those UN sanctions. And that’s important because it would bring back all the security council resolutions, it would force the Europeans to have to comply with these UN sanctions, and Asian countries, and it would isolate Iran politically but also it would do something, Paul, very important. There’s still about $5 billion dollars’ worth of Iranian-European trade this year. If you could shut down $5 billion dollars’ worth of trade, then you’re essentially in the position I mentioned earlier, where they can’t buy essential goods from the Germans, and the Italians, and the Dutch that they need to run their economy, sophisticated machinery that they need for their factories. You get rid of 5 billion euros of trade, and you’re putting Iran closer to that position of economic collapse.
Gigot: Just so I understand, this unilateral decision, just one country, the United States, could call for the snapback? It couldn’t be vetoed by China, couldn’t be vetoed by Russia and other Security Council members?
Dubowitz: That’s correct, it’s a unilateral snapback against the opposition of those countries. I think the Obama administration at the time wisely understood they were never going to get Chinese and Russian support so they negotiated a unilateral snapback. Now some are saying the United States can’t do that alone because the United States has walked away from the JCPOA. That is not the administration’s position in terms of the legal interpretation of that snapback.
Gigot: I guess the question is, if you’re talking about maximum pressure, why hasn’t the administration done this so far?
Dubowitz: I think there’s an internal debate about whether this is the time to impose that snapback, because essentially when you impose that snapback the Iranians walk away from the nuclear deal, everybody walks away from the nuclear deal, it’s dead and it’s buried and then you’ve got to deal with the fallout from that and part of the fallout would be continued Iranian nuclear escalation and you’ve got to be prepared for that.
Gigot: Thank you Mark Dubowitz, appreciate it.