Professor comments in the media regarding Iran’s implementation of the nuclear accord

SIA professor Flynt Leverett
SIA professor Flynt Leverett

Penn State School of International Affairs professor and Middle East expert Flynt L. Leverett was interviewed by several media outlets regarding the arrival of the so-called implementation day for the Iran nuclear deal on Jan. 16 and on the brief detention of the U.S. sailors who drifted into Iranian territorial waters on Jan. 12.

Leverett appeared as a panelist on RT’s CrossTalk and said that, because of the negotiation process in the nuclear deal and Iran’s release of the U.S. sailors, the U.S. and Iran are beginning a promising new relationship.

“Without the diplomatic framework between the United States and Iran that was established in the course of the negotiations that produced the nuclear deal, the United States would not have been able to resolve this episode with the U.S. sailors,” he said. “That got resolved in a matter of hours, and this demonstrates moving toward a more normal U.S. relationship with Iran.”

In a one-on-one radio interview Background Briefing with Ian Masters, Leverett stressed how Iran has complied with the agreement to reconfigure its nuclear program and discussed the meaning of their compliance.

“Apart from the nuclear deal itself, the diplomatic effort that went into negotiating this deal has all kinds of other payoffs, as exemplified in this episode with the U.S. sailors that entered Iranian territorial waters,” he said. “If this had happened two years ago, there would have been no way for the U.S. Secretary of State to be in immediate contact and in direct communication with the Iranian foreign minister, and for them to work together to resolve this situation, and to get these U.S. sailors back to their ship so quickly.”

Leverett then referred to Secretary of State John Kerry’s quote, stating, “This is a really powerful demonstration of what diplomacy can actually do.”

As part of another panel on, Leverett opined that the U.S. should “use the nuclear deal as an opening to reshape its relationship with Iran.” He compared this example with how the U.S. reshaped its relationship with China in the 1970s. However, he mentioned, until U.S. opposing political views on how to treat Iran are resolved, U.S. policy toward Iran will continue to be “in flux.”

He continued these thoughts in an additional panel commenting on how the nuclear deal lifts sanctions against Iran, but at the same time, the U.S. has imposed new sanctions. Leverett said U.S. politicians can’t make up their minds on what type of relationship they want with Iran.

In an article in Deutsche Welle about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visits to Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, Leverett turned his thoughts to China's political role regarding the Iran nuclear deal, and how China’s interests Iran are both economic and strategic in nature.

An expert on the Middle East, energy and the economic dimensions of international security, and Chinese foreign policy, Leverett is part of the founding faculty at the Penn State School of International Affairs, and an affiliate faculty member at Penn State Law and in Penn State’s Asian Studies Program. He is also a visiting scholar at Peking Institute of International and Strategic Studies and a senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute of Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.

Leverett served nine years as senior Middle East analyst at the CIA and has written extensively on the international relations, politics, and political economy of the Middle East and on U.S. Middle East policy. His latest book is entitled Going to Tehran: Why America Must Accept the Islamic Republic of Iran.