JCPOA Endurance Hinges on Ensuring Iran Interests

The deputy foreign minister says Trump’s interpretation of the sunset clauses is wrong because Iran’s commitment in the JCPOA not to go for the nuclear weapons is permanent
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi speaks at the Chatham House think tank in London on Feb. 22.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi speaks at the Chatham House think tank in London on Feb. 22.

Iran may withdraw from the nuclear deal if the US maintains a "policy of confusion and uncertainty" that is scaring foreign businesses away from the country, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Thursday.

Under the deal with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States, Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in return for the removal of sanctions.

Despite that, big banks have continued to stay away for fear of falling foul of remaining US sanctions—something that has hampered Iran's efforts to rebuild foreign trade and lure investment.

Adding to those concerns, US President Donald Trump told the Europeans on January 12 they must agree to fix the "terrible flaws" of the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or he would reimpose the sanctions Washington lifted as part of that pact.

But even if Trump relents and issues fresh "waivers" to continue suspending those sanctions, the existing situation is unacceptable for Iran, Araqchi said in a speech at the Chatham House think tank in London, Reuters reported.

"The deal would not survive this way even if the ultimatum is passed and waivers are extended," he added.  

***Climate of Uncertainty

"If the same policy of confusion and uncertainties about the JCPOA continues, if companies and banks are not working with Iran, we cannot remain in a deal that has no benefit for us," Araqchi said. "That's a fact."

Trump sees three defects in the deal: its failure to address Iran's ballistic missile program, the terms under which international inspectors can visit Iranian nuclear sites, and "sunset" clauses under which limits on the Iranian nuclear program start to expire after 10 years. He wants all three strengthened if Washington is to stay in the agreement.

Iran says its missiles are for defensive purposes only and that its military sites are outside the purview of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Araqchi said Trump's interpretation of the sunset clauses is wrong.

"There is no sunset clause in the JCPOA. Although the US administration and Trump are talking about sunset clause and that the JCPOA is just for 10 years, that is not true," he said. "Iran's commitment in the JCPOA not to go for the nuclear weapons is permanent."

***Nuclear Crisis

The official also reiterated Iran's position that the JCPOA was a non-proliferation treaty and could not be linked to any other issue.

If the nuclear deal is linked to Iran's ballistic missile program or its regional activities, world powers "not only will lose the JCPOA but will make other issues more complicated and more difficult to resolve," he said.

"If we lose the JCPOA, we will face another nuclear crisis," Araqchi noted.

"For the Europeans or the world community, when we talk about maintaining the JCPOA and saving it, it's not a choice between the Iranian or the US market, it's not a choice for economic cooperation: it's a choice between having security or insecurity," he added.

***US Pullout

In addition, in an interview with BBC published on Thursday, the deputy minister said Iran is not convinced that the deal can survive without the US.

"It is up to the other participants of the JCPOA to show and to convince Iranians that they can deliver the JCPOA even without the US. This is not our understanding for the time being," he said.

"If the US is out, we would also actually go out because there is no deal anymore. This is what we understand, and, as we see, Europeans are trying to prevent that."

The senior diplomat also said the nuclear accord is not linked to any other issue and cannot be reopened or renegotiated. "There is no supplement, there is no add-on, there is no follow-on, nothing."

***Side Deal

When asked if Iran would accept a side agreement, Araqchi noted that another deal on any other issue depends on how successful the nuclear agreement is.

"We are not quite satisfied with the implementation of the deal by the other side, let alone going to discuss about any other subject. You know, any other member of the JCPOA, being Europeans or the US, can only come to us and ask for a follow-on or an argument on any other issue only when they have fulfilled their commitments in the JCPOA."

If the nuclear pact becomes a successful experience for Iran, then they are allowed to ask for negotiations on other issues, the official added.

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