Iran has announced to begin enriching uranium beyond the 3.67 percent cap set by the 2015 nuclear deal “within hours”.
Instead of outright withdrawal from the deal, Iran has decided to reduce its commitment in every 60 days ‘if’ the remaining signatories fail to protect Tehran from the US sanctions.
On May 8, 2018, the US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the deal. In the following days and months, the United States announced sanctions on Iran with a view to crippling down its economy.
Despite the media hullabaloo after Iran’s latest announcement, the international community, however, will not overlook Tehran’s endurance of the US sanctions for a year and compliance with a deal that de facto became invalid after the US left in 2018.
After almost a year of enduring US sanctions, Tehran’s latest decision has been revealed in a time when the US President Trump is seeking more excuses to maximize the pressure on Iran.
This move, however, can potentially backfire for the Persian nation losing the allies they found in the European Union, the United Kingdom, France and Germany through the 2015 nuclear deal.
Signing the Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015 was historic because Iran agreed to roll back parts of its nuclear programs cooling off a gasping nuclear tension in the Middle East in exchange for relief from some sanctions.
But the latest provocations from the US President and the subsequent Iranian moves have threatened the existence of an already weakling deal.
What Led the JCPOA to Impasse?
The US President Donald Trump has been a vocal critic of the JCPOA since the beginning. During the Presidential Campaign in 2016, Donald Trump described it as “the worst deal ever negotiated,” and pledged to dismantle it if elected.
As promised during presidential election campaign, on May 8, 2018, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the “decaying and rotten” deal which the President said was an “embarrassment” for him as a citizen.
The US walkout of the deal, however, was not a surprise. With Donald Trump in the office for more than a year by then and his fresh recruits Mike Pompeo and John Bolton at the front, the world was not shocked when President Trump announced to walk away from the deal.
The US withdrawal from the deal offered Iran every reason to leave the platform. But Iran decided to comply with the deal “if” the remaining signatories help Iran “achieve the deal’s goals.” In the meantime, Rouhani ordered his Atomic Energy Organization “to be ready for action if needed” to resume enrichment “on an industrial level without any limitations.”
Was Iran Complying with the JCPOA?
Exactly after a year of US leaving, on May 8, Tehran announced partial withdrawal from the JCPOA clauses related to its low enriched uranium and heavy water. Heavy water is an essential requirement of atomic bomb. Tehran announced this move to “rescue the JCPOA, not destroy it,” said the Iranian President.
Iran issued a 60-days warning to resume higher uranium enrichment if the remaining signatories fail to shield Tehran from the US sanctions. The latest Iranian announcement of breaching the stockpile limit follows the eve of the issued 60-days warning.
Except for this new development from Iran, the UN nuclear monitoring agency IAEA had been verifying Iran’s compliance with the deal even after the US walkout and continuous sanctions.
In its May 31 report, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified that Iran didn’t breach the JCPOA limits. "All centrifuges and associated infrastructure in storage have remained under continuous agency monitoring," the report said.
In spite of having all the excuses on the table to withdraw from the deal, Tehran didn’t choose an outright path to quit, because- a comparatively moderate Hassan Rouhani government took pride in striking a deal with the west that provided oxygen for the ailing Iranian economy. A total withdrawal from the deal would mean a debacle for the center-right government at home.
And an outright withdrawal from the deal would mean resuming the Iranian nuclear ambition. The Iranian nuclear ambition may influence the European Union, United Kingdom, Germany and other western countries join the US President’s campaign against Tehran. Iran will not like the idea of these powers joining the campaign spearheaded by the U.S. President Donald Trump.
What Lies Ahead?
With mounting hostilities between the United States and Iran, the tension in the Persian geopolitical landscape has been continuously exasperating. For Iran, however, breaching the limits set by the JCPOA doesn’t necessarily mean that Tehran is following the US marks to walk away from the deal.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s confirmation of breaching the 300-kilogram limit and Tehran’s preparation to go beyond 3.67% limit “within hours” rather expose Iran’s desperation to get the Europe do more to save Iran from Donald Trump’s sanctions.
A desperate Iranian approach to get rid of the economic pressures is not unpredictable. Iran has been in compliance with the deal so far ‘only’ to save its ailing economy from the sanctions. But at the same time, the unilateral US withdrawal from the deal was also not ‘very unpredictable’.
Now, if Iran continues its ‘predicable response’ to tackle the US moves, the country is essentially playing a game set by the rules of Donald Trump.
No one will be happier to see Iran getting slipped away from the 2015’s historic deal signed by the former US President Barack Obama than the incumbent US President Donald Trump.