Synopsis: Resolution of JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) issue is the foremost challenge for Biden administration. It is also very important for a peaceful world.
Former US president (Mr Trump) revoked the JCPOA or Iran nuclear deal in 2018. After that Iran also resumed its nuclear program. So the US under the current Biden presidency have to take a proactive step to revive the JCPOA.
What is JCPOA and developments around it so far?
- After the prolonged talks from 2013 to 2015, the JCPOA, (the Iran nuclear deal) was reached. The negotiations involved Iran and P5+1 countries (Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union + Germany).
- While signing the JCPOA, Iran was estimated to be months away from producing a nuclear device. As it accumulated enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) to produce a nuclear device.Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU): This type of Uranium has at least a 20 percent concentration of Uranium-235. This is a higher concentration comparing to the natural uranium ore (0.7% of U235). This is essential to produce the simplest type of nuclear weapon.
- According to the Iran nuclear deal, Iran accepted to restrict its uranium enrichment program. It also agreed to intense compliance with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards. In return, the sanctions on Iran were partially lifted.
- The Iran nuclear deal was seen as the greatest diplomatic achievement by Former US President Barak Obama. But the Iran nuclear deal was not ratified in the US Senate. So, Mr Obama implemented the deal based on periodic executive orders.
- Under the Trump administration, the Iran nuclear deal was seen as a one-sided deal. So, by May 2018 the US adopted a policy of putting ‘maximum pressure’ to force Iran back to the negotiating table. Accordingly, the US imposed sanctions on Iran again.
How the other P5+1 members reacted to the US decision on JCPOA?
- Other parties to the JCPOA criticised the U.S. decision. They also supported Iran as it complied with its obligations and also certified by the IAEA.
- The E-3 (France, Germany, the U.K.) and the EU promised Iran to find ways to mitigate the U.S. decision on JCPOA.
- The E-3 countries also created a relief Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) with Iran in 2019. This is aimed to facilitate limited trade between Iran and the EU.
How Iran reacted to sanctions?
- After the failure of talks and the INSTEX, Iran shifted to a strategy of ‘maximum resistance’ in 2019. Iran restarted its nuclear program with the following steps:
- Accumulating the low enriched Uranium and heavy water to develop HEU
- Stepping up the research and development on advanced centrifuges
- Already tense relationship between US and Iran worsened by many developments, like:
- Drone strike leading to the death of IRGC commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
- The U.S. had imposed nearly 80 rounds of sanctions on Iran.
- Iran experienced unexplained fires and blasts in many sensitive places like the one at the Natanz nuclear facility
Relevance of reviving JCPOA:
- The Iranian Parliament also passed a bill seeking to enrich the Uranium above 20%. A recent IAEA report has also confirmed that 20% enrichment had begun.
- Moreover, Iranian elections are due in June. A fundamentalist regime is less likely to agree to any US demand. So, the negotiations might not yield results after the Iranian elections.
- If there is a collapse of the JCPOA, then Iran can turn into North Korea-like situation. It will have major repercussions in the region and beyond.
What can be done to revive the JCPOA?
- Positive steps and multiple rounds of talks are necessary for creating a conducive atmosphere.
- To achieve that, Iran can release the European and American nationals currently in custody in Iran.
- Similarly, the US can help to clear Iran’s applications to the International Monetary Fund. This will help Iran to recover from COVID-19 and aid the supply of vaccines under the international COVAX facility.
- Similarly, The E-3/EU also needs to fast track deals worth a few million euros stuck in the INSTEX pipeline.
- The US on the other hand can remove sanctions on Iranian political leaders, it will bring Iran closer to talks.
The revival of JCPOA is essential considering the current political situations in Iran and the new change in the US presidency. But it has to be fast, else Iran might turn into a North Korea-like situation.