By Mick Krever, CNN
Increasing sanctions on Iran at a time of landmark direct negotiations would increase Iranian suspicion that the U.S. is seeking regime change, a former CIA officer and nearly 30-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence community said on Wednesday.
“It simply adds to the perception, which is already pretty prevalent in Tehran – it’s a suspicion that none other than the Supreme Leader holds – that we in the United States aren’t really interested in an agreement, we’re interested in regime change,” Paul Pillar told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Robert Menendez, a Democratic Senator, told Amanpour on Wednesday that he was calling on Iran to suspend enrichment as a “good-faith” effort in negotiations.
“What I do not understand is a negotiating posture in which we suspend our actions, we give them sanctions relief on existing sanctions, yet they continue to be able to enrich, to be able to have more sophisticated centrifuges,” Menendez said.
Pillar dismissed that idea as a logical fallacy.
It is “quite correct that the existing sanctions are one of the major ingredients in the Iranian calculus, and why they are sitting down at the negotiating table,” he said.
“It does not follow from that, however, that adding more sanctions to the mountain of sanctions that are already in effect is the way to close the deal.”
Pillar told Amanpour that any nuclear deal between the two sides would come as part of a package.
“I don’t think either side, either the Iranians or the U.S., should be looking for a unilateral move from the other side,” he said. “We would not expect the Iranians to expect from us to simply start taking sanctions off unilaterally, and we should not expect from them to simply start stopping aspects of their nuclear program unilaterally.”
There are two key points when it comes to using sanctions as a negotiating chip, Pillar said.
“One is, If there’s no movement at the negotiating table from the other side, we keep the sanctions in place,” he said. “But the other, just as important, is to persuade the other side that if they do make the kind of concessions that we want, it’s part of a package in which sanctions come off.”