U.S. Sanctions and Iran's Nuclear Deal

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In a controversial move, US Congress recently passed a 10 year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act. Experts believe this is against the letters and spirit of the JCPOA, also known as Iran's nuclear deal.

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Narration: December 1, 2016. In a controversial move, U.S. Senators unanimously passed a 10 year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act.

SOUNDBITE [English] Congress, Senators Voice: “Counter no.693HR6293 an act authorized the Iran Sanctions Act 1996. On HR6293 the yeas are 99. the nays are 0. the bill's passed.”

Narration: The law, first passed by Congress in 1996, allows the U.S. to punish investments in Iran's energy industry. U.S. lawmakers view it as a sword of Damocles trying to hang it over Iranian nuclear programs as long as possible.

SOUNDBITE [English] Robert Menendez, U.S Senator: “We must provide leverage to seek a necessary change in the conduct of the Iranian regime and hold Iran accountable for meeting its international obligations including the terms of the JCPOA.”

Narration: However, Iranian lawmakers see the renewal as a flagrant violation of the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 reached in 2015.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Ali Larijani, Speaker of Iran’s Parliament: This reveals that the whole U.S. ruling body – Democratic and Republican – had consensus on the renewal of this act, which is translated into the ineffectuality of the current President. This move shows the current U.S. President didn’t act with integrity in this deal. We do want the government to take countermeasures against their impudence as soon as possible.”

Narration: Iranian President Hassan Rouhanihas demanded that U.S. President not sign the extension.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Hassan Rouhani, President of Islamic Republic of Iran: “The recent U.S. Congressional bill – in our opinion – contradicts the JCPOA and violates it. Therefore, the U.S. President is obliged to prevent it from being approved or effective using his executive power.”

Narration: The joint comprehensive plan of Action, the JCPOA, was signed in 2015 between Iran and the six world powers to end a decade-long dispute over Iran's nuclear program. The agreement comprised a set of mutual conditions: as part of it, Tehran pledged to sell its excess heavy water, redesign the Arak reactor, cut enrichment down to 3.67%, and reduce its centrifuges down to 5060 in Natanz, and 1044 in Fordow. Tehran also agreed to increased inspections and the implementation of the additional protocol. The pledges were fully honored within the timeframe under the full supervision of the IAEA. In return, the US along with five other powers promised to lift sanctions. As such, the nuclear-related sanctions by the UN Security Council, the EU, and the US had to be cancelled. The P5+1 agreed to lift the ban on selling commercial aircraft to Iran, maritime restrictions, banking and financial restrictions, and transaction limitations on oil and gas, among others. One year later, many of these constrains still persist: European banks still refrain from doing business with Tehran fearing American reaction; in the aviation sector, Tehran has been unable so far to buy a single aircraft; the dollar transaction restriction has been a major barrier for Iranian companies to do business with the world; The confiscation of the Iranian Central Bank's assets overseas, and the imposition of fresh sanctions are among measures adopted by the US which are against the JCPOA.

SOUNDBITE [English] Rodney Shakespeare, Political Analyst: “Even during the negotiations the USA imposing the sanctions the USA never really intended and effective agreement they were forced to negotiate by the Russians the Chinese and the Europeans so they came up with an agreement and now they're doing everything they can to undermine it.”

Narration: Iran complains it has not received the full benefits of sanctions relief because of these sanctions. US sanctions, while not necessarily prohibiting non-US companies and financial institutions from working with Iran, raise the cost and risk of doing business with the Islamic republic.

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Narration: Now, the same members of Congress who were opposing the nuclear deal have sponsored the renewal of a nearly expired law. The bill in and of itself violates the UN resolution 2231 that calls for the formal termination of all UN sanctions eight years from the adoption day. That’s while the new bill is going to renew sanctions for at least ten years to come.

The international community has reacted negatively to these anti-Iran legislations on the part of US Congress and the US government. The latest reaction has come from China. On Mon Dec 05, 2016, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi underlined the necessity for all parties to the last year nuclear deal to remain committed to their undertakings.

SOUNDBITE [Chinese] Wang Yi, Chinese Foreign Minister: “The JCPOA is an international agreement reached by the six countries with Iran. It's recognized by the UN resolution and the Security Council. Therefore, ensuring the full implementation of the agreement id the common and joint responsibility of all parties involved, and it should not be affected by any change in the domestic situations of the countries concerned.”

Narration: So far, the US has played an unreliable part in among the members of the agreement; in fact, many political experts believe that more than everything else, the US reputation is at stake.

SOUNDBITE [English] Mohammad Marandi, Political Analyst, and University of Tehran: “The agreement was supposed to change things and to give Iran equal access to banks in order to facilitate trades. So, obviously it's not going to help but the real harm is the region's trust and it shows the U.S. is not a reliable partner.”

Narration: If the US lame duck president refrains from signing the bill into law, the country will be able to save face for six months. But the worst is yet to come. How about Donald Trump? During his presidential campaign, Trump called Obama's significant foreign policy achievement “one of the worst deals.” He vowed to renegotiate or tear up the deal.

SOUNDBITE [English] Donald Trump, US President-Elect: “The United States must oppose this resolution and use the power of our veto which I will use as a president one hundred percent. And it's a bad deal.”

Narration: That’s while many political experts have warned the U.S. President-elect not to mess with the deal. In a BCC interview, CIA Director John Brennan warned the incoming administration that scrapping the nuclear deal would be “disastrous.”

SOUNDBITE [English] John Brennan, Director at CIA/talking on Iran’s nuclear deal: “I think it would be disastrous, it really would: for one administration to tear up an agreement that a previous administration made would be almost unprecedented. And I think it would really call into question any agreement that the U.S. would sign onto in the future.”

Narration: Given Trump’s flip-flops over the weeks after his victory, it remains unclear whether his campaign rhetoric will translate into policy. But what remains clear is that the United States has already broken its promises over and over again, and the renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act might be the last straw.

SOUNDBITE [English] Mohammad Marandi, Political Analyst, University of Tehran: “If, let's say, the U.S. tears the agreement, Iran would tear the agreement but if the U.S. tries to keep the agreement but to misuse it, and Iranians feel the agreement has reached a point which is really becoming ineffective, then the Iranians would start interpreting the agreement in a way the U.S. gets nothing out of it either. The Iranians can interpret the way in which the IAEA gains access different sites.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Ali Akbar Salehi, Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization: Certainly, we will not be the starter of breaching the deal. but if the time comes that there is no alternative but to respond, then our response will be very strong and will be very crucial. I hope the time will never come such an action.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Ali Larijani, Speaker of Iran’s Parliament: “What the Americans did was kind of cunning. In fact, they want to hold a hammer over this issue to use it when necessary. Well, we can also have such a hammer, among other things.”

Narration: No matter how the US is going to proceed with the game, Iran is resolved to play its TRUMP CARD this time.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Leader of Islamic Republic of Iran: “They have done many violations, not one or two. The most recent one is the extension of the Sanctions Act for ten more years. If signed to law, it will definitely be a violation of the JCPOA. No question about it. They must know that the Islamic Republic will certainly react against it.” 


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