Trump May Look to Toughen Iran Nuclear Deal

Trump May Look to Toughen Iran Nuclear DealTrump May Look to Toughen Iran Nuclear Deal

Instead of tearing up the Iran nuclear deal, the new US administration is exploring how to tighten its enforcement and renegotiate key terms, but it may prove impossible to get other major powers and Iran to consider revising the agreement.

Under the 2015 accord between Tehran and six world powers, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from some US, European and UN economic sanctions. Many experts consider it a success so far.

The new administration this week signaled a harder but ambiguous line toward Iran by putting the Islamic Republic "on notice" after an Iranian ballistic missile test and then by imposing economic sanctions on 13 individuals and 12 entities on Friday.

The options the administration is considering include insisting the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, toughen policing of Iran's compliance, including demanding access to military sites, according to two sources familiar with the matter cited by Reuters.

"The basic idea is that the IAEA has to be granted access," said one source with knowledge of the matter, acknowledging it would be difficult for the US administration to win support for military site inspections from the other 34 countries on the IAEA Board of Governors.

The US also would seek to remove "sunset" provisions from the pact that allow some restrictions on Iran's nuclear program to start expiring in 10 years, something US critics consider the deal's biggest flaw, the two sources said.

However, the administration could press the agency to report more information on Iran's compliance with the nuclear pact, one of the sources said, noting that the agency has cut back on reporting some data, such as how much low-enriched uranium Iran is stockpiling.

The US administration is also weighing a push to tighten the rules of the Procurement Working Group, a panel set up under the accord to make it harder for Iran to win approval to import sensitive technologies and materials that might be used for nuclear purposes, said one of the sources.

There are concerns among US conservatives that the administration of ex-president Barack Obama was too lenient in agreeing to Iranian purchases of nuclear-related materials, one source said.

  Long Shot 

Getting the United States' partners in the nuclear deal, a group known as P5+1 that includes Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, into such a negotiation is likely to be extremely difficult, let alone bringing the Iranians along.

"It seems to be a long shot," said a P5+1 source on the odds of getting the group into a new negotiation aimed at tightening up the nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or at creating a sort of "JCPOA II". 

Iranian officials have rejected the idea of renegotiating the deal, and Trump's stance could weaken the hand of those in Tehran who have been willing to negotiate with the West, said an unnamed former Iranian official.

"[Opponents of the deal] will use Trump's stance to strengthen their position," said the official close to President Hassan Rouhani. "They have always been against Rouhani's detente policy toward the West." 

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