Expert Explains Hurdles to Nuclear Deal’s Revival

Expert Explains Hurdles to Nuclear Deal’s Revival
Expert Explains Hurdles to Nuclear Deal’s Revival

US President Joe Biden has announced his willingness to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has also expressed readiness to return to the deal, stating that “Iran could come into compliance with the agreement within an hour of the United States doing so”.
In a recent article published on the website of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Hossein Mousavian, a Middle East security and nuclear policy specialist, said although the agreement’s revival is certainly possible, it will not be easy.
The former Iranian nuclear negotiator said the two sides will need to overcome a number of hurdles to make it happen.
First, the sequencing of a mutual return could be an immediate problem. Iran expects the US to lift sanctions first, because it was the Trump administration that first withdrew from it. While Tehran’s demand is legitimate, Washington may ask Iran to come into full compliance before lifting sanctions. 
Second is the issue of what compliance constitutes. During the administration of former US president, Barack Obama, there was one major barrier to the full realization of the terms of the agreement: Many US primary sanctions, targeting US citizens and permanent residents, organizations and individuals that engage in trade and business with their Iranian counterparts, remained intact. These sanctions limited the economic benefits of the deal for Iran. 
Paragraph 29 of the deal clearly states that all signatories will refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran. This cannot be achieved without abolishing the primary sanctions.
Third, the administration ex-president, Donald Trump, reimposed numerous sanctions against Iran under the guise of terrorism and human rights, to prevent the Biden administration from returning to the deal. For a clean implementation of the agreement, Biden will need to remove all of these sanctions as well.



Damaged Credibility 

Fourth, Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement and violation of other international commitments have damaged US credibility abroad. There is now a widespread belief among Iranian policymakers that the US will simply not live up to its end of the bargain, no matter what that bargain is.
Fifth, because of Trump’s maximum pressure policy, the Iranian economy has suffered hundreds of billions of dollars of losses while Iran was in full compliance with the terms and conditions of the deal. Some Iranian authorities have demanded compensation for the economic losses suffered by the country after the US withdrew. The challenge will be to find a mechanism to compensate for the economic losses that the Trump administration inflicted on the Iranian economy.
Sixth, the “snapback” mechanism built into the agreement allows any country to force the UN Security Council to reimpose multilateral sanctions against Iran, if Iran fails to fulfill its commitments. But this is one-sided: There is no such remedy for Iran, when other parties fail to do their part. 
Seventh, the Iranian Parliament has recently passed a bill mandating the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to resume enriching uranium to 20% purity. The legislation also requires the Iranian government to cease the voluntary implementation of IAEA’s Additional Protocol within two months of the bill’s enactment, if the other signatories fail to fully deliver on their commitments under the agreement. And after three months, AEOI is obliged to begin using at least 1,000 second-generation centrifuges. In short, Biden will need to move fast.




Eighth, some pundits and politicians in Washington want Biden to leverage the Trump administration’s sanctions to pressure Iran to accept additional commitments beyond the original agreement as a condition for the US return to compliance. These include limiting Iran’s missile capability, extending the so-called “sunset” clauses within the deal, or resolving regional disputes. But from Iran’s perspective, such demands are a non-starter. 
In conclusion, Mousavian said, despite these hurdles, Biden should nevertheless seek a reentry into the deal. Only a clean and full implementation by all parties can save the world’s most comprehensive nuclear agreement, help contain rising US-Iran tensions and open the path toward more confidence-building measures. That path should include, upon Biden’s issuing an executive order to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the creation of a working committee of parties to the agreement tasked with ensuring full compliance by all signatories, and a forum, organized by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in which Iran and the Persian Gulf Arab countries can discuss a new structure for improving security and cooperation in the region.

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