The United States government on Tuesday 8th of May 2018 officially pulled out of the joint comprehensive plan of action ((JCPOA) also known as the Iranian deal thereby ending a three year deal signed by the Obama administration in 2015 in conjunction with other world super powers. The world’s super powers that signed the deal were Germany, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and the United States popularly known as the P5+1.
The Iran deal was meant to curtail the Iranian government from going on into enriching uranium towards the production of nuclear weapon. In July 2015, Iran had almost 20,000 centrifuges. With the JCPOA in place, it was limited to installing no more than 5,060 of the oldest and least efficient centrifuges. Iran’s uranium stockpile was reduced by 98% to 300kg (660lbs), a figure that must not be exceeded until 2031. It must also keep the stockpile’s level of enrichment at 3.67%.
As a result of the deal, by January 2016, Iran had drastically reduced the number of centrifuges installed at Natanz and Fordo, their two most prominent nuclear installations and shipped tonnes of low-enriched uranium to Russia.
In addition, research and development must take place only at Natanz and be limited until 2024. No enrichment will be permitted at Fordo until 2031, and the underground facility will be converted into a nuclear, physics and technology centre. The 1,044 centrifuges at the site will produce radioisotopes for use in medicine, agriculture, industry and science. Iran will not be permitted to build additional heavy-water reactors or accumulate any excess heavy water until 2031.
At the time of the agreement, then-US President Barack Obama’s administration expressed confidence that the JCPOA would prevent Iran from building a nuclear programme in secret. Iran, it said, had committed to “extraordinary and robust monitoring, verification, and inspection”.
Before July 2015, Iran had a large stockpile of enriched uranium and almost 20,000 centrifuges, enough to create eight to 10 bombs, according to the Obama administration. The Obama administration said the JCPOA would remove the key elements Iran would need to create a bomb and increase its break-out time to one year or more. The purpose of the deal was meant to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities, to stop the threat of war in the region and also to stop and prevent the region countries from getting into a nuclear arms race.
However, all that seem to be a dream now as the trump administration has fulfilled the campaign promise of backing out of the deal. President trump had been making obvious his dislike for the Iran deal and spoken virulently on its supposed shortfalls labelling it as a disgrace. Despite frantic efforts from world leaders such as Macron of France, May of United Kingdom and Merkel of Germany etc who were part of the deal, to persuade him into staying in the deal and working on its perceived deficiencies.
While signing off on the Iranian nuclear deal, Trump described the deal as defective to the core and a horrible one-sided deal that should never ever have been made. Meanwhile the trump led government s set to resume nonmilitary sanctions on the Iranian government.
The Iranian president Hassan Rouhani called the Trump administration moves as unacceptable and vowed to bypass Washington and negotiate with other partners in the Iranian deal.
United States partners in the deal such as Germany, France, and United Kingdom through their various leaders have expressed disappointment at the US for pulling out of the deal while promised to uphold the nuclear deal.
This is a major and big blow to the Obama presidency. The administration worked tirelessly with some other major world leaders in bringing the Iranian government to the deal. In his reaction to the action, he noted that the step was a misguided step, according to him ‘The reality is Clear. JCPOA is working, that is a view shared by our European allies independent experts and the current US Secretary of Defence. The JCPOA is in America’s interest. ‘Considering the level of efforts in achieving the Iran nuclear deal in the first place, it is indeed a painful one for Obama to take, and considering the number of nations that are involved in crafting and agreeing the deal, one will be forced to conclude that the Trump administration is making a mistake by pulling out the deal as he risks tearing up the fragile peace in the region.
It is important to understand why the Iranian deal was in place in the first place. The deal as signed by the P5+1 was meant to control and restrain the Iranian government from enriching uranium to towards the production of nuclear bombs. However the broader purpose is to maintain peace in the Middle East. The Middle East has over the years been a hot bed of conflicts in the world. Each and every nation is skeptical of the other and the Iranian production of nuclear weapon changes the equation for all powers in the region chief among who are Israel and Saudi Arabia and would likely lead to a nuclear arms race. A development that has a threatening prospect for achieving peace in the region.
However, US close allies in the Middle East Saudi Arabia and Israel feel differently to this and were majorly in the vanguard of getting US to back out of the deal. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia have often criticized the Iranian regime as the major state sponsor of terrorism in the region. They see the Iran deal as doing little to reduce Iran’s power in the region. As a matter of fact, it has only empowered Iran more actively sponsor terrorism in the region. It can thus be argued that trump played according to the script of Israel and Saudi Arabia who were suspicious of Iran growing influence in the Middle East. It will be recalled that the new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid visits to both Saudi Arabia and Israel immediately after his confirmation by the US congress. It is also instructive to know that just a week ago the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a power point presentation in a naked attempt to sway the U S president against staying in the Iranian deal.
With the US now out of the deal, what are those things that would be the fallout from such a monumental step guaranteed of having fundamental repercussion for peace and development of the region.
The United State is due to resume economic sanctions against Iran. The resumption of the US sanctions on Iran would further lead to economic hardships for the common Iranians. The Iranians are still recovering from grueling economic sanctions between 2012 and 2015. The economic sanctions which in parts stopped Iran from exporting its crude oil and petroleum products to the outside world, thereby crippling their economy with the attendant increase in unemployment and high rate of poverty among the people. This understandably plays into the interest of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.
The pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal also plays into the hardliners, on the political right who are against the relation and romance between Iran and the United States. They were opposed to the deal in the light of the fact that the hard core values of 1979 Islamic revolution world. They feel the deal weaken Iran prospect as a regional power and they would be eagerly anticipating the death of this deal.
Perhaps the most damning impact of this pulling out is that it lessens the credibility of the U S government In the world. If the U S cannot be trusted to uphold an agreement it entered into in partnership with other world super powers, then it means the US under President Trump cannot be trusted. That would create a major diplomatic problem when it comes to foreign policy. With this coming at a time the US is negotiating with North Korea on shutting down its nuclear programs. The North Koreans would likely come to the table with both optimism and caution.
Though the trump administration says it is open to new negotiations, there is no pointer to the fact that Iran is ready to renegotiate an agreement they did not violate in the first place. More worrying is the fact that the Trump Presidency is not offering any alternative to the deal it labels as a disgrace to America. One only hopes that Iran does not itself pull out of the deal and work in relation with the European powers in fostering the deal. The deal is an important tool to maintaining peace in a fragile middle east that has been ravaged by terrorism and insurgency.
An imperfect deal (that could be improved upon) which is helping to maintain the peace in the region, is better than a no deal at all.
Compiled and Written by Victor Alagogoko for IbadanCityAnnouncer