Iran And US Tensions Threaten Possible ‘Nuclear Crisis’

On Thursday 22nd February 2018, Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran, Abbas Araghchi, reiterated Iran’s pledge to commit to the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal. The Deputy Foreign Minister’s proclamation comes over a year after Trump’s election campaign, where promises were made to withdraw from “the worst deal ever negotiated.” On January 12th, President Trump declared that if, what the President refers to as, the “disastrous flaws” in the JCPOA were not resolved within 120 days, the US would no longer participate in the iconic deal – an outcome with potentially disastrous consequences.

President Trump announced that this is a last chance for Iran to amend the deal to the standards of which the President is willing to agree to, or else consequences could see the implementation of sanctions for Iran – actions which would directly contradict the agreed terms of the deal, as the BBC reports. Federica Mongherini, EU’s foreign affairs chief, rejects President Trump’s concerns, claiming that “the deal is working.” The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA), responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015), supports the assertion in their most recent report released in November 2017. The IAEA confirmed that it carries out stronger inspection activities, and the Director General, Mr Amano, ensured that “commitments undertaken by Iran are being implemented.”

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister claimed, during a press conference at Chatham House, that the US violates the JCPOA on a daily basis, and that three mistakes made by the US are driving Iran’s frustrations, including: the misunderstanding that the JCPOA is an economic deal between Iran and the P5+1 (UN Security Council’s 5 permanent members, plus Germany), the use of the JCPOA deal as a mechanism to address other issues, as well as the belief that there is a “sunset clause” in the JCPOA. Araghchi’s reaffirmations follow President Trump’s decision to honour the multilateral 2015 nuclear deal by not reimposing sanctions against Iran and instead imposing a 120-day time limit to fix the “flaws” of the nuclear deal. These involve the drafting of a new agreement, which would eliminate all expiry clauses, a ban on ballistic-missile testing, and access to any military site for the IAEA.

President Trump’s irrational assertions and actions may undoubtedly result in the termination of the Iran nuclear deal. The historic agreement was orchestrated under the Obama administration on July 14th, 2015, with the objective of limiting Iran’s nuclear program and increasing monitoring by the IAEA in exchange for the cessation of economic sanctions imposed by members of the P5+1. The consequences of the US’ threat of economic sanctions and their negative perception of Iran is already affecting Iran’s economy and resulting in protests across the country. Deputy Foreign Minister confirmed that the US’ actions violate Paragraph 28, which emphasizes the “good faith” and “constructive atmosphere” and must be maintained. Consequently, Al Jazeera reports that the current mood in Iran “is anything but optimistic.”

If President Trump’s various demands are not addressed by Saturday the 12th of May, the international community could see the end of a representative deal, and ultimately resulting in the reigniting of Iran’s nuclear program if it so chose. Concurrently, Iran will withdraw from the deal if the US does not cease in creating an “atmosphere of uncertainty” and ‘poisoning’ Iran’s potential business opportunities. The decision remains “a choice between security and insecurity at the world level,” as Araghchi plainly noted. The US must recognize its position as a leader in the international system to ensure that a nuclear crisis does not become a reality.

Zoe Knight