Days before the May 12 deadline, President Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from the multilateral Iran Nuclear Deal, also referred to as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with an objective to find a different method of dealing with the so-called Iranian threat to the Middle East.
The Trump administration has announced that “the highest level of economic sanctions” will be imposed on Iran, warning that “[a]ny nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could be strongly sanctioned.”
President Trump had repeatedly threatened to undo the “insane” nuclear deal, which was concluded after nearly 20 months of hectic diplomatic efforts. The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA is likely to trigger a nuclear arms race and further exacerbate the Iranian-Saudi rivalry in the already turbulent Middle East.
Apart from the United States, there are five more signatories to the deal – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany. As a rule, President Trump’s administration should have taken these parties on board before leaving the historic deal. It seems that the recent visits of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington (to implore Trump to adhere to the deal) dismally failed.
Under the JCPOA, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is entrusted with the responsibility to inspect whether the Islamic Republic is seriously following the nuclear-related provisions of the deal. The UN nuclear watchdog has continually judged Iran to be in full compliance with the commitments it had made in the deal. More importantly, some top US security officials too have confirmed that Iran has been complying with all aspects of the JCPOA.
Under this accord, Iran stopped uranium-enrichment at Fordow for 15 years; reduced 20,000 centrifuges to 5,000 at the Natanz facility; decreased its stockpile of uranium by 98 percent to 300 kilograms for 15 years, and redesigned the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor. According to some careful estimates, Iran possessed uranium in such amount that was adequate to make ten nuclear devices before July 2015. On account of the restrictions imposed by the JCPOA, Iran now cannot produce even a single bomb with the existing 300 kilograms of uranium.
The Rouhani government has conscientiously abided by the deal as it wanted to get the crushing sanctions on the Iranian economy removed so as to resuscitate it. The Iranian leadership is fully aware of the fact that the crippling sanctions imposed by the US, the UN and the EU to force Iran into halting the uranium-enrichment have stultified its economy – they cost the Islamic Republic over $160bn in oil revenue from 2012 to 2016 alone. The nuclear deal had provided Iran access to over $100bn in assets frozen overseas.
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