US President Donald Trump has announced his decision to take the US out of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran. Trump has accused Iran of “malign” behavior in the Middle East and promised severe US sanctions.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), imposed strict restrictions on Iran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for relief from UN-imposed sanctions. The 2015 agreement was signed by Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members (Russia, China, the US, UK, France) and Germany.
The deal was seen as a crowning achievement of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Trump, however, repeatedly called the agreement “one the worst deals ever” and vowed to repeal it during his 2016 presidential campaign.
So far, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly certified Iran’s full compliance with the agreement, and the European Union has deferred to its judgment.
EU stands by deal
UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, visiting DC this week, cautioned that scrapping the deal would be “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Johnson was able to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but not with Trump.
Scrapping the 2015 nuclear deal “would mean opening Pandora’s box, there could be war,” French President Emmanuel Macron told the German weekly Der Spiegel. Macron spoke on the phone with Trump on Tuesday, just hours before the announcement. He also made a state visit to Washington last month, with the deal as one of the topics of discussion.
Macron was followed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but there were no indications she managed to change Trump’s mind.
Israel is against
Israel was against the 2015 deal from the beginning. Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu staged a slide presentation claiming that the entire deal was based on lies, and showing off dossiers and discs he said Israeli spies had retrieved from Tehran, proving that Iran had a nuclear weapons program.
Iran: US violating deal
On Sunday, Iran warned the US against breaking the deal, with President Hassan Rouhani saying that “if the United States leaves the nuclear agreement, you will soon see that they will regret it like never before in history.”
Speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, accused the US of falling short of its obligations as a signatory to the landmark agreement, noting that “it seems you can only speak with the Americans in the language of force, and there is no other solution.” His comments were reported by Iranian news agency IRNA.
Any attempts by Trump to dismantle the nuclear deal would only serve to unify the Iranian people and encourage “the great Iranian nation to continue on the path of the Islamic Revolution firmly behind the leadership of its supreme leader,” Larijani added.
What’s in the deal?
Iran’s nuclear program dates back to the 1950s and was, ironically, set up with American help before the 1979 revolution ended most of Iran’s ties with the US.
Under the JCPOA,Tehran gave up 98 percent of the enriched uranium it already had, and only keeps material enriched to the lowest threshold of five percent (weapons-grade uranium starts at 85 percent).
Two-thirds of Iran’s enrichment centrifuges are halted, leaving only around 6,000 older models operational. Any remaining materials and facilities are to be used strictly for scientific, medical, and agricultural purposes.
Iran’s compliance is being monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The JCPOA boosts the IAEA mission in Iran from 50 to 150 experts with round-the-clock access to any nuclear-related facilities, and additionally envisions remote and satellite surveillance.
In return, UN and EU sanctions against Iran were either suspended or lifted, and no new sanctions will be introduced as long as the JCPOA is in effect. The US, however, never agreed to permanently lift or even suspend its own sanctions.
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