JCPOA and US Credibility

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In his attempt to derail the JCPOA, Trump has dented America's credibility; Trump's administration faces isolation over its opposition to the deal since EU, China and Russia remain committed to the JCPOA.

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Narration: The United States has been heavily criticized worldwide for failing to live up to its obligations under the nuclear deal between Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. Since January, when Donald Trump took office as U-S president, America’s violations of the deal have intensified. Trump now seems determined to derail the agreement also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The US president, who had fiercely spoken against the deal during his presidential campaign, has now refused to sign off on the landmark agreement.

SOUNDBITE [English] Donald Trump, U.S. President: “I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification"

Narration: All other P5+1 countries involved in the deal with Iran, namely the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China have reaffirmed their support for implementing the JCPOA, a hard earned international agreement endorsed by the UN Security Council. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or the JCPOA is seen as the result of over a decade of intensive diplomatic efforts.

The dispute over Iran’s nuclear program arose in 2002 when the United States and some of its allies accused Tehran of trying to make nuclear weapons. Iran always insisted that its atomic program is only for peaceful purposes and that the West is using the nuclear case as to pressure the country. Iran and major world powers held many rounds of negotiations after that year to try to settle the dispute.

-In June 2003, Britain, France and Germany began nuclear negotiations with Iran but the US refused to take part.

In October that year, Iran voluntarily suspended uranium enrichment as part of an agreement with the three European countries. Iran also allowed snap inspections by the IAEA.

In February 2006, Iran announced it will resume enrichment after the IAEA voted to refer Iran’s nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council.

The P5+1 group was formed in June 2006 when the United States, Russia and China joined the three EU countries in talks with Tehran.

The U.N. Security Council imposed its first nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in December 2006. Until 2010, five more Security Council resolutions intensified anti-Iran sanctions. The U.S. and the European Union also imposed their own unilateral measures against the Islamic Republic. The Western sanctions mainly hit the Iranian people. They caused serious shortages of life-saving medicines for cancer patients. In response, Iran sped up its nuclear work and increased the number of its centrifuges.

-In May 2010, when talks between Iran and the P5+1 were showing little progress, Brazil, Turkey and Iran announced their own nuclear fuel-swap deal that came to be known as the Tehran Declaration. Under the deal, Iran agreed to ship over a tonne of low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for fuel rods for its medical research reactor that produced much needed radio isotopes. But the arrangement failed to work due to heavy U.S. pressure.

In January 2011, nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 broke down and remained stalled for over a year.

In August 2013, Hassan Rouhani became Iran’s president and pledged to resolve the nuclear dispute through diplomacy. By then, Iran had about twenty thousand centrifuges from just a few hundred in 2002. Iranian officials argued that sanctions have only led to the intensification of Iran’s nuclear program and more centrifuges.

Former U-S president Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani spoke by telephone in September 2013. It was the highest-level contact between the two countries in decades. America’s top diplomat John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad JavadZarif soon launched a major new push to settle the atomic dispute.

And finally on July 14th, 2015, after twenty months of marathon talks that were perhaps unprecedented in international diplomacy, the six world powers and Iran announced a comprehensive atomic deal.

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SOUNDBITE [English] Federica Mogherini, EU Foreign Policy Chief: “Today is a historic day, this is a great honor for us to announce that we have reached an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue, with courage, political will, mutual respect and leadership we delivered on what the world was hoping for”

Narration: Days later, the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed the international agreement. The JCPOA was hailed by the international community as an important diplomatic achievement.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was hammered out despite heavy pressure from pro-Israeli and Saudi lobbies in the United States. It ended the long running dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and recognized the nation’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology. Under the deal, Iran agreed to voluntary restrictions on its atomic work. For instance:

Uranium enrichment

Iran agreed to voluntarily limit the number of centrifuges at its Natanz enrichment facility to 5,060 for ten years.

Iran’s fordo enrichment facility was turned into a nuclear, physics and technology centre. The over one thousand centrifuges there now only produce radioisotopes for use in medicine.

Iran reduced its uranium stockpile by 98% to 300 kilograms and pledged to keep that level for 15 years. Iran also committed to keeping the level of nuclear fuel enrichment at 3.67 percent.

Iran agreed to redesign its heavy-water reactor near the city of Arak. Based on the JCPOA, Iran is not allowed to build heavy-water reactors for 15 years.

In return for the steps undertaken by the Islamic Republic, the P5+1 group agreed to lift all nuclear-related sanctions. Part of Iran’s frozen assets was released. The country was permitted to resume selling crude oil on global markets and reconnect to the global financial system. Iran also received assurances of cooperation in a variety of industrial and technology fields. However, Iran has had grievances about the implementation of the agreement especially by the United States. Iran says America’s threatening tone and its fresh sanctions scare off businesses and make it difficult for Tehran to work with major international banks and financial institutions. Tehran says it has not been benefiting from the deal as it is supposed to. Moreover, Tehran maintains that the JCPOA is only a nuclear deal but some parties are using it to pressure the country over its defense program.

The Iran Nuclear Deal recognizes the International Atomic Energy Agency as the authority tasked with verifying Iran’s compliance. The JCPOA relies on stringent inspections that are carried out by the agency. The IAEA has so far produced eight reports confirming that the Islamic Republic has fully complied with its JCPOA obligations. IAEA inspectors use different methods including site visits, remote monitoring and satellite photography to verify that Iran has remained in compliance with the deal.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been an outspoken critic of the deal since the very beginning of his presidential campaign. He used every opportunity to condemn the administration of former US president Barack Obama for clinching the nuclear deal. Trump repeatedly pledged to tear up the JCPOA as soon as he became president calling the agreement the worst deal in America’s history. Experts say Trump is now facing a big dilemma. On the one hand he feels he has to pull America out of the deal with Iran because this was a central presidential campaign pledge. The US president's close ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia which are strong opponents of the JCPOA are also pushing him to withdraw. But on the other hand, the US leadership knows too well any such decision would leave America isolated. That's because other parties to the deal like the EU, Russia and China have repeatedly warned Washington against pulling out.

Trump’s recent decision to decertify the Iran nuclear agreement has even drawn fire from more moderate voices inside the United States. They believe international commitments made by the United States must be respected by all administrations.

Nancy Pelosi: “By decertifying the Iran nuclear deal Trump has kicked the ball into Congress’s court. Now all eyes are on the Congress to see whether it will vote to re-impose sanctions on Iran. What’s mainly at stake now is America’s credibility on the world stage.”


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