Sustainable Sanctions Relief Only Way to Address Nuclear Standoff

Sustainable Sanctions Relief Only Way to Address Nuclear Standoff
Sustainable Sanctions Relief Only Way to Address Nuclear Standoff

The only way to address Iran’s nuclear issue is for the United States to lift its economic sanctions and ensure sustainability of the 2015 nuclear deal from which it once withdrew unilaterally, said a Middle East specialist. 
“If it [the US] does, Iran, for its part will fully implement its commitments under the JCPOA permanently,” Hossein Mousavian said in an article published by the Middle East Eye, using the acronym for the nuclear deal’s formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. 
The JCPOA was a comprehensive nuclear agreement reached between Iran and world powers. When former US president Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the agreement in 2018 while Iran was in full compliance, he also imposed the most ferocious economic bans on Tehran. 
Iran continued to fully implement its commitments until 2019, hoping that the EU, Russia and China would create a mechanism to bypass the continuing US secondary sanctions so that Iran would receive the economic benefits of the agreement.
When that did not happen, Iran too began to scale down its nuclear commitments by deploying advanced centrifuges and increasing, in steps, the enrichment level of its uranium from the JCPOA limit of 3.67% to 60%.
The advancements have created deep concern for western countries who are pushing Iran to return to compliance, while Iran insists that it would do so only when sanctions are removed and assurances of non-repetition are given by the US.  



Main Lesson  

Negotiations began in April in the Austrian capital Vienna between Iran and the five remaining parties to restore the landmark agreement by working out how both sides can resume compliance. 
Iran, however, also demands assurances that the deal would not be violated again, since the main lesson that the Iranian people and their rulers have drawn from their JCPOA experience is that Iran can never trust the US, according to Mousavian. 
“Even if the US signs an international accord reinforced by the United Nations Security Council, there is no guarantee that the US would abide by its side of the bargain,” he said. 
Iran can quickly reverse its nuclear steps, perhaps within a month or two, but is reluctant to do so, fearing that the US could impose the same sanctions again under the umbrella of terrorism, human rights, missiles or regional issues.  
If sanctions related to these issues were imposed, they could kill all the economic opportunities the JCPOA creates for Iran. 
“That is why Iran wants a sustainable JCPOA.” 
Seen from this perspective, and given the enormous losses to Iran’s economy inflicted by US secondary sanctions—estimated at $1tn—it is understandable that Iran is asking for assurances from the western parties to the JCPOA that the Trump sanctions will be scrapped permanently, in return for Iran returning to compliance with the deal, the expert said.



Other Scenarios

Mousavian also offered two other scenarios, the first being what many Israeli officials are advocating: a US military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in case of a failure to restore the JCPOA.
“I believe that this is a bluff to put more pressure on Iran. The US is in no mood to launch a new war in the Middle East,” he said. 
The second scenario would be a continuation of Trump’s failed strategy of maximum pressure: namely, full-blown economic, political and cyber wars, with sabotage including continuing Israeli covert attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities and assassinations of its nuclear scientists. 
The US and Europe would likely push for an International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors’ resolution against Iran which would likely respond by withdrawing from the JCPOA. 
If the US and Europe then referred Iran’s case to the UN Security Council to revive the six resolutions imposed on Iran during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Iran would likely withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Mousavian explained. 
He, however, noted that the most rational scenario remains to be the revival of the JCPOA through diplomacy, especially given that Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi—although an opponent of former president Hassan Rouhani who presided over the negotiation of the deal—is seeking to revive it. 

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