Report Warns Trump Against Undoing JCPOA
Should the Iran nuclear deal fall apart, the consequences for the Middle East region would be "unfathomable", according to a new report from the International Crisis Group.
The report, coming on the eve of Donald Trump's inauguration, urges the US president-elect to preserve and strengthen the landmark agreement, rather than tear it up as he has threatened to do, Al Jazeera reported.
Under the 2015 nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which took effect a year ago, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment program in return for sanctions relief—a pact derided by Trump as the "worst deal ever negotiated".
"Any attempt by the Trump administration to undercut the deal in the hope of 'fixing' it is likely to backfire ... Moreover, by destabilizing the JCPOA, the new administration could usher in what it says it seeks to prevent: greater Iranian assertiveness, more regional instability and lower odds of resolving the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen," states the International Crisis Group's report, released on Monday.
The report, which provides a status update on the first year of the JCPOA's implementation, notes that ongoing enmity between the United States and Iran has left the agreement vulnerable.
Since January 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified on six occasions that Iran was complying with its JCPOA obligations, the International Crisis Group found.
But the report also acknowledges the bumpy road of implementation over the past year, including several alleged minor technical violations by Iran, subsequently remedied, and problems with sanctions relief.
The relaxation of sanctions by the US, the European Union and the United Nations has allowed Iran to regain oil market share, with oil production and exports rebounding to pre-sanctions levels of 3.85 million barrels a day.
The country has also absorbed more than $11 billion in foreign direct investment, the highest level in two decades—but Iran still lacks normal international banking ties, "hampering its reintegration into the global economy", the report notes.
The threat of sanctions "snapback", if the agreement falls apart, along with the possibility of new sanctions, continues to hang heavy.
"The agreement's collapse appears neither imminent nor inevitable. What seems more likely is its gradual erosion under the new US administration that could, deliberately or by neglect, undermine it," Ali Vaez, a senior Iran analyst with the International Crisis Group, told Al Jazeera.
Vaez noted that the deal's destabilization could increase regional tensions and "push Iran to double down on policies it presents as essential to its national security, [such as] the ballistic missile program ... and 'forward defense policy' of bolstering regional partners and [allies] in Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut."
Despite Trump's bluster, the Iranian government has pointed out that the nuclear deal is non-negotiable and that no country would be allowed to affect its implementation.
The International Crisis Group's report, which suggests that the best path forward could be a mutually beneficial renegotiation of certain aspects of the deal, calls on Washington to give the treasury department more resources to roll back sanctions, while urging Iran to "stop using nuclear or regional brinkmanship as leverage".
One option could be to strengthen some of the JCPOA's nuclear provisions in return for rolling back the US primary embargo, the report proposes.
Other members of P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) should discourage Iran from overreacting to a possible change in US tone, "but also clearly tell Washington that if it unjustifiably walks away from the accord, it will do so alone", the report adds.
"[The deal's] unraveling now would have unfathomable consequences for the region, non-proliferation and multilateral diplomacy. To imagine a stronger pact can be built on its ruins is a chimera, as destroying it—even if gradually—would also destroy the hint of trust that led the parties to compromise," the report says.