Accessibility links

U.S. President Donald Trump has never liked the nuclear deal with Iran and has long promised to pull the United States out of what is often referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement signed in 2015 by China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and, of course, Iran.

The UN Security Council unanimously endorsed the deal by virtue of a resolution (Resolution 2231) adopted on July 20, 2015.

In Annex B of this resolution, “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, until the date eight years after the JCPOA adoption or until the date on which the IAEA submits a report confirming the Broader Conclusion, whichever is earlier.”

Today, Annex B is the heart of the problem. By appearance, it has nothing to do with Iran’s commitment and responsibility under the nuclear deal. But ballistic missiles, particularly medium-range and intercontinental or long-range (ICBM), are what a nuclear state needs to develop before it can deploy nuclear warheads to target an adversary that is far away from its borders.

Looking at the ongoing crisis on the Korean peninsula, one tends to think it would have been more rational to use clear and more explicit language to ban development of ballistic missiles by Iran.

The resolution does not explicitly ban Iranian ballistic missile development but instead “calls upon” Iran to refrain from doing so.

In the absence of clarity, Iran claims it is not banned by any resolution and that development of ballistic missiles is within its legitimate rights to defend itself.

The United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council

​The United States has a responsibility to monitor Iran’s commitment under the agreement, and the State Department usually reports to the president on whether Iran is meeting the agreement’s requirements.

Since Trump stepped into the White House, the government has certified twice that Iran has adhered to the norms and requirements of the deal.

The U.S. State Department received its initial confirmation from the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) and then confirmed with the president, who in turn confirmed with Congress.

Iran’s compliance within JCPOA is a key issue, but after the second confirmation, Trump -- who contests Iran’s ballistic missile program -- has insisted the missile program is against the spirit of JCPOA and therefore a violation of Iran’s commitments.

Iran’s compliance within JCPOA is a key issue, but after the second confirmation, Trump -- who contests Iran’s ballistic missile program -- has insisted the missile program is against the spirit of JCPOA and therefore a violation of Iran’s commitments.

Rather ambiguous or perhaps even somewhat “friendly,” the wording of Resolution 2231, particularly the opening part that reads “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles…etc,” has been the subject of discussion and open interpretation of the Annex B of the Resolution from both sides.

Having said this, in an ideal and friendly state of relations between Iran and the world, such ambiguity would have been interpreted in Iran’s favor, but in the absence of such friendly relations and considering the existing bitterness and resentments between Iran and the United States, the negative aspect of the resolution weighs on the minds of many on the U.S. side.

As a result, an undeclared war continues between the two countries, while at the same time Iran attempts to use Europe and Russia as leverage against the United States.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump and National security adviser H.R. McMaster
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump and National security adviser H.R. McMaster

On August 2, Trump signed the U.S. Congress-approved new sanctions against Iran into law only 24 hours after the speaker of the Iranian Parliament announced that its government had placed a complaint against the United States for breaching JCPOA through imposition of sanctions.

In Iran, it is not unusual to hear people outside of the government talking about what the government will do or has to do, but in this case it was strange that the speaker of the Iranian Parliament announced a diplomatic move, while Iran’s Foreign Ministry, which was involved in the negotiation, remained silent.

Ever since, Iranian and American authorities have been speaking indirectly to each other through news media rather than sitting on a table to bridge their differences.

On the Iranian side, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said on August 2 that the U.S. sanctions were “predictable” and that Iran would respond through a host of retaliatory measures in “nuclear, economic, political, and defense.”

Shamkhani emphasized, “Iran is not willing to stay in JCPOA at any cost” and that “JCPOA should be respected and executed by all signatories. He claimed five of the states who signed JCPOA are politically opposed to the United States and all of them implicitly and explicitly admit it is the country that has violated JCPOA. According to Shamkhani, this “political gain” has been achieved with minimal costs for Iran.

Shamkhani added that Iran’s dependence on its “national power and capabilities” will be used to confront what he described as “U.S. arrogance.” He further blamed the United States for an attitude that, according to him, lacks “perceptiveness and creativity” toward Iran.

Iran's FM Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with EU's Federica Mogherini in Vienna on Monday May 16, 2016. Discussing Iran Nuclear Deal implementation.
Iran's FM Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with EU's Federica Mogherini in Vienna on Monday May 16, 2016. Discussing Iran Nuclear Deal implementation.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s well-known foreign minister, emphasizes that "De-escalation of tensions and tension management with the U.S.” is in his ministry’s priorities; however, he does not elaborate on how this priority translates into action. Zarif echoes what other authorities have said in different ways, that the United States cannot prevent Iran from benefiting from the nuclear agreement.

He believes Iran is committed to JCPOA and if the United States wants to pull out of the deal then “it has to pay the costs of its potential termination.” Zarif also considers the high number of foreign delegations attending President Hassan Rouhani's inauguration ceremony as a positive sign and argues that “the policy of isolating Iran has failed and the Iranophobia plot has been thwarted.”

On the American side, several reports indicate that Trump will most probably refuse to confirm Iran’s compliance with JCPOA in October. If this happens, it will enable the United States to reinstate all the sanctions that were suspended in 2015 as a result of JCPOA.

On August 8, the Iranian state-run news agency IRNA quoted Ali Akbar Salehi as saying the “U.S. will lose if it violates the terms of JCPOA.” Salehi, who is the head of the Atomic Energy Organization and had been an active member of the nuclear negotiations, believes that based on seven reports by the International Atomic Agency Iran has a clean record and therefore “Iran is not going to violate the terms of the nuclear agreement.”

Refuting Israel’s claims that Iran is involved in secret nuclear activities for military purposes, he reiterated what is often referred to as the religious “Fatwa” issued by the supreme leader in prohibition of chemical-biological weapons. He hoped there would never come a time to go back to the pre-JCPOA situation.

According to Salehi, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has substantiated Iran's peaceful nuclear program. He says Washington should “bear responsibility for its violation of the nuclear deal.”

On the American side, several reports indicate that Trump will most probably refuse to confirm Iran’s compliance with JCPOA in October. If this happens, it will enable the United States to reinstate all the sanctions that were suspended in 2015 as a result of JCPOA.

We know for sure that the international atomic watchdog (IAEA) has repeatedly reassured that Iran is in compliance with the agreement. We also know there are differences between Secretary Rex Tillerson and Trump on JCPOA; however, both of them together with U.S. generals may agree on the fact that Iran’s regional behavior and support for groups like Hezbollah and Hamas do not add up to security in the Middle East.

The main question is whether these factors are part of the nuclear deal or they are unrelated. How would Trump’s use of these factors as a pretext abort JCPOA and going back to status que ante be constructive? Would it not create a legitimate reason for Iran to not only withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty but also start its nuclear activities again -- very much the same course of action North Korea followed after their deal under the Clinton administration was aborted? Does the world need another North Korea in the already tumultuous region of the Middle East?

Your opinion

Show comments

XS
SM
MD
LG