By Alireza Karimi
On May 8, 2018, the world media aired a picture of then-US President Donald Trump signing an executive order, a decree strengthening the United States’ partnership in the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5 + 1 group of countries (the UN the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany). The agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was previously viewed by many countries, and even by the Americans themselves, as the result of the success of multilateralism in international relations, but the US president canceled it in one fell swoop.
Many of Iran’s benefits from the deal were enshrined in US commitments, but the Iranians have always insisted that they were not being properly implemented, even after the United States joined the JCPOA. The story of the US exit from the JCPOA did not end there, however. In addition to restoring previous sanctions and extensive expansion of restrictive measures under various names, Washington blocked all parties who wanted to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (UNSC) by complying with the JCPOA. As a result, the United States has demonstrated that it is not complying even with a Security Council resolution that it once voted for.
On the other hand, the three European signatories of the JCPOA (E3) were unable or unwilling to take effective measures to fulfill their obligations under the JCPOA after the US withdrew from the agreement. As a result, their financial mechanism for working with Iran, called INSTEX, did not work in practice.
Still, Iran has fully met its obligations under the JCPOA for a year since the US withdrew from the nuclear pact.
Under what circumstances did Washington leave the JCPOA?
Trump signed the executive order to exit the JCPOA, while Iran, according to all reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had fully met its obligations and was subject to the strictest nuclear inspection and transparency regime. Tehran followed the same path for a year after the US withdrew from the JCPOA, and the IAEA reports confirmed this adherence again.
Trump had called the JCPOA in the election campaign as the worst deal in American history. Meanwhile, his friends in the Middle East encouraged him to break off the nuclear deal with Iran, including Benjamin Netanyahu in the Occupied Territories, Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Zayed in the United Arab Emirates. Along with tough US senators like Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton – who had undeniably anti-Iranian views – and John Bolton – a National Security Advisor who later became Trump’s serious critic – they paved the way for the United States to turn its back on its international Engagement.
Although the JCPOA in Iran was heavily criticized from the start for its imbalance of input and output and its approach to trust in the US as a long-standing enemy of the Islamic Revolution, the deal was respected and as a decision of the administration at the time and Tehran did not renounce it.
Article 37 of the JCPOA and Trump’s electoral defeat
Finally, a year after the US withdrawal, Iran began scaling back its nuclear obligations under the JCPOA. In Iran, a serious question arises for many people: why is the country still sticking to the deal despite the US withdrawal and the strict re-imposition of sanctions that have led to economic problems and the suffering of the nation ?!
However, Americans may be unaware that this reduction in obligations is based precisely on an article of the same agreement, Article 37. The article approved by the Security Council as an annex to Resolution 2231 reads: Should sanctions be reinstated in whole or in part, Iran will be so consider suspending all or part of its obligations under the JCPOA. Accordingly, Iran’s right to reduce its obligations under the agreement has been recognized and approved by the Security Council if the sanctions are reinstated. The same statement is also mentioned in Article 26 of the JCPOA. Hence, the image projected by some US officials regarding the violation of the JCPOA is basically unrealistic.
With the gradual and multi-step suspension of Iran’s nuclear obligations, a number of developments in the United States finally brought the Donald Trump administration to a controversial end and brought Joe Biden to power. Biden, who was himself the vice-president of the government that had reached the JCPOA with Iran, called for a return to the agreement. Soon, however, the Biden government showed that it was in no rush with this and that a return to its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 was essentially not a priority. As a result, Trump’s sanctions against Iran continue to this day.
Negotiations were held between Iran and the P4 + 1 (the remaining parties to the JCPOA) in the US presence to review the resumption of US membership in the agreement. The talks lasted six rounds but, in practice, did not result in a US return to the nuclear deal as Washington refused to lift any sanctions imposed on Iran or allow the country to review the lifting of the sanctions.
With the elections in Iran and the inauguration of the government of President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi, the Vienna talks were temporarily suspended and are to be resumed on November 29, 2021. But what approach would Iran use to enter these negotiations?
Iran has the right to be strict
It is almost clear that Iran’s main purpose in participating in the talks is to lift the illegal US sanctions that have caused the suffering of the Iranian people. The Iranian government feels it has a responsibility to act if there is a chance to lift the sanctions under fair conditions. On the other hand, Iran has repeatedly stressed that it is ready to return to its full obligations under the JCPOA as soon as other parties comply with their obligations and the lifting of the sanctions is reviewed.
However, Iran’s experience shows that it cannot negotiate with a lenient attitude towards the Americans. Washington slightly violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, reinstated and expanded sanctions against Iran, and even blocked Iranians’ access to medicines and food. In addition, she carried out terrorist attacks against Iran and murdered the Iranian military commander on the soil of a third country. Of course, without reviewing and receiving the necessary guarantees, no agreement can be reached with a country that has such a history. Meanwhile, Republicans vow to break the agreement again if they take the helm of the US executive. Furthermore, given Biden’s poor performance and, in particular, the debacle of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the possibility of Trump’s return to power has become serious.
And the question is, if Western politicians wanted to decide in a similar situation, would they be open to a new deal and downsizing their nuclear programs with no guarantee? The answer to this question seems obvious.
(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)