US Isolation Over Iran Nuclear Deal

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The US has intensified controversial actions that are undermining the nuclear deal between Iran and the 5P+1. Iran says the deal is being respected by all parties except the US.

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Narration: The United States is a party to a landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. America’s implementation of the deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is under the microscope. That’s because Iran and even some other parties to the deal have voiced grievances about how US actions and policies are undermining the agreement. The JCPOA is supposed to be a basis for cooperation among Iran and the other sides in the nuclear field and beyond. But observers warn that the United States, especially since President Donald Trump took office, has been going in the wrong direction. Trump’s approach is partly blamed on his close ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia which tried hard but failed to derail the nuclear talks with Iran. Some say the US administration is once again isolating America because even its Western allies involved in the nuclear deal with Iran have shown strong commitment to the international agreement.

The result of the tough negotiations and painful compromises; the Iran nuclear deal emerged in July 2015. The process leading up to the historic agreement saw top diplomats from major international players like the European Union, Russia and the United States engage in marathon diplomacy with Iran. The agreement was endorsed by the UN Security Council. It ended a long running dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. Based on the deal, Iran agreed to limit some aspects of its nuclear program in return for the removal of all atomic related sanctions. The deal was hailed internationally as a major diplomatic breakthrough, with some even describing it as the deal of the century.

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the International Atomic Energy Agency is tasked with verifying Iran’s compliance with its JCPOA obligations. The IAEA has issued seven reports confirming that Iran has fully complied with the terms of the agreement.

But Iran has serious grievances about how the US is refusing to keep its part of the deal. Tehran says the US has violated both the letter and the spirit of the JCPOA.

SOUNDBITE [English] Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister: “For instance when the White House made an announcement a couple of days ago, that president Trump used his presence in Hamburg during the G20 meeting in order to dissuade leaders from other countries to engage in business with Iran, that is a violation of not the spirit but of the letter of the JCPOA, of the nuclear deal.”

Narration: US president Donald Trump has been highly critical of the Iran nuclear agreement. He’s been exploring possible ways to withdraw from it. He began his opposition to the JCPOA during his presidential campaign long before taking office. He repeatedly pledged to tear up the JCPOA as soon as he becomes president.

SOUNDBITE [English] Donald Trump, U.S. President: “I’ve been doing deals for a long time, I’ve been making lots of wonderful deals, great deals, that’s what I do. Never ever, ever in my life, have I seen any transaction so incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran”

Narration: But Trump’s administration has twice certified to the congress that Iran is upholding the agreement. Sources close to the administration say Trump has wanted to pull the US out of the agreement with Iran, but his advisors have talked him out of doing that because they believe the US would be left out alone. Top officials from the administration of former US president Barack Obama have also warned Trump against walking away from the international agreement.

SOUNDBITE [English] Ernest Moniz, Former U.S. Secretary of Energy: “Well first of all, I certainly don’t endorse walking away from the deal. Walking away from the deal would be walking alone. Our sanctions before were effective only because the international community was aligned. If we walk away from the deal, that won’t happen again. We would have the worst of both worlds. If Iran walks away from the deal, they will get hammered in terms of global sanctions. It’s frankly in everybody’s interest to adhere to the deal”

Narration: Trump’s team has instead of withdrawing, launched a campaign to impose sanctions on Iran on any pretext that it can find. Some observers believe the White House wants to provoke Iran into pulling out. Soon after the Trump administration confirmed for the second time that Iran is in compliance, it announced new sanctions against 18 entities and people over Iran’s missile program. The new measures triggered strong criticism from Tehran.

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SOUNDBITE [English] Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister: “Even in order to certify that Iran has complied, they made sure that they put some new designations against Iran at the same time so that they would prevent Iran from benefitting from the economic dividends of the nuclear deal. This has been the persistent and consistent of this administration even of previous administration”

Narration: The push to undermine the agreement is not limited to the administration of Donald Trump. The US congress, where Israel and Saudi Arabia have powerful lobbies, approved a bill that would slap fresh sanctions on Iran. This is going on despite warnings from more moderate politicians in America.

SOUNDBITE [English] Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator: “I have serious concerns about the sanctions on Iran contained in this bill. As we have heard from former Obama administration officials, including Secretary Kerry and ambassador Sherman, these measures could undermine the Joint Comprehensive Plan of action.”

Narration: Despite heavy US pressure on Iran and its campaign to scare off businesses, the country is reaping the benefits of its nuclear deal. It has ramped up its oil exports over the past two years and is fast approaching pre-sanctions level. The country has sealed trade and infrastructure deals with major companies from the European Union, China and Russia. For instance, a consortium led by France’s Total SA recently agreed to a five billion dollar deal to develop part of Iran’s South Pars gas field. China’s National Petroleum Corporation is also taking part in the project. South Pars is the world’s largest offshore gas field and is acting as a platform for attracting massive multinational investment. Iran is one of the most stable and secure countries in the Middle East and this has helped speed up attracting foreign investment over the past two years. Despite US pressure tactics, other powers which are party to the Iran nuclear deal insist it should be respected and fully implemented.

: “Since the deal was reached two years ago, Iran has been earnestly implementing relevant measures. In the meantime, relevant countries have been strengthening economic and trade cooperation with Iran which is in line with the will of the international community. All relevant parties have the responsibility to safeguard and carry out the Iran nuclear deal.”

Narration: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has stressed that the Islamic Republic will continue to fulfill its nuclear commitments. The president has also warned against moves that would benefit Washington. He believes the United States through its aggressive policies and sanctions has laid a trap for Iran. No matter how America acts, other parties are moving ahead and making headway.

SOUNDBITE [English] Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister: “I’m very happy that the rest of the international community continues to do business with Iran in spite of the intransigent rhetoric coming from Washington and that’s what is keeping the nuclear deal alive. I believe the nuclear deal is alive because the rest of the world and Iran want to keep it alive.”

Narration: Trump’s miscalculations and controversial policies including his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord have already isolated America on the world stage and antagonized many of its close partners. There are growing concerns that his stances on the Iran nuclear deal may widen the rift between the United States and its western allies and isolate America even further.


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