4 Persons
12 April 2021 - 13:16

Why immediate US return to JCPOA is vital?

By Seyyed Hossein Mousavian
Why immediate US return to JCPOA is vital?

If the United States wants to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, the Biden administration should lift 1600 sanctions imposed on Iran during the Trump administration, but an American official said Washington will not remove all bans; so, how US President Joe Biden can comply with the country’s commitments under the deal, if any agreement is made?

Around 80 days after Biden took office, Iran and the world powers kicked off the first round of negotiations to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna, Austria. Negotiators of the P4+1 group (the UK, France, Russia, China plus Germany) evaluated the talks as positive; however, the Biden administration should face numerous challenges to be able to revive the deal on time. If the US does not return to the JCPOA as soon as possible, the negotiations might break down; so, Iran proceeds its uranium enrichment program beyond the JCPOA limits; then, a new crisis would come out.


In July 2015, Iran and six world powers agreed upon resolving a crisis on Iranian nuclear program; based on the agreement, the powers vowed to lift anti-Iran sanctions and in return, Tehran accepted inspections and restrictions beyond the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But in May 2018, former US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the JCPOA and re-imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.


Despite the situation, Iran fully implemented its obligations under the deal for another year after the US withdrawal from the JCPOA; then Tehran reduced its commitments gradually, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying in January 2021 that it will take Iran only three or four months to reach its nuclear breakout point.

Biden said in September 2020 that Trump throw away the JCPOA arrogantly, while it was working to maintain the United States’ security. Three months into Biden’s presidency, he has not yet returned to the JCPOA, because his administration is facing three challenges:


First: Members of his own team are involved in disagreements. Some of his foreign policy team want a proper return to the JCPOA, but others pursue harsh stance on the issue.
Second: The Israeli lobbyists put pressure on the Biden administration to avoid joining to the deal.


Third: The Democrat party in Congress have disputes on returning to the JCPOA or keeping pressure on Iran.


With two decades of experience on Iran’s nuclear issue, I believe if the Biden administration refuses to return the deal immediately, the accord will fall apart and the next serious negotiation will happen at a time when Tehran speeded up its nuclear activities and surpassed the breakout point.


Given the nuclear history in Iran, the US pressures had reverse reaction and prompted the Iranians to expand their nuclear program. As I mentioned in my book “Iranian Nuclear Crisis, A Memoir,” the United States pursued the policy of preventing peaceful nuclear technology in Iran; therefore, Germany refused to complete Bushehr nuclear power plant, France declined to provide Iran with nuclear fuel and the US itself also banned export of nuclear fuel for Tehran Research Reactor.

Following 15 years of failed nuclear talks with Europe, the Islamic Republic decided to reach self-sufficiency in producing nuclear fuel and succeeded in enriching uranium in 2002.
In 2003, Germany, France and Britain started nuclear talks with Iran. In this juncture, the United States’ stance changed from “zero nuclear technology” for Iran to “zero enrichment” due to Tehran’s access to enriching technology. However, the talks with three European states bore no fruit because of Washington’s disagreement.


Then, the world powers approved six resolutions at the UN Security Council to impose vast sanctions on Iran. Tehran expanded its nuclear program. In 2013, the then US Secretary of State John Kerry claimed Iran has enough enriched uranium to build 8 to 10 atomic bombs.

Thus, the new situation prompted the White House to change its policy from “zero enrichment” to “avoiding Iran’s passage from breakout point.” Within the framework of the JCPOA, Iran could convince the world powers to accept its enrichment of uranium in return for some restrictions.


However, there is a new situation following Trump’s withdrawal from the deal and the re-imposition of sanctions, the roll-back of Iran’s commitments under the JCPOA happened and the Iranian parliament obliged the government to continue with increasing uranium enrichment.

The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei pointed out to the uranium enrichment at 60 percent level, which could pave the way for the country to reach the level of 90 percent enrichment.


The US and Israel have agreed upon expansion of cooperation to put more pressure on Iran. If the trend continues for next months, Tehran will show its steadfastness and stand against pressures; so, it will pass the nuclear breakout point. In the coming months, when Iran is going to hold presidential election, the principlists enjoy better chance to enter the presidential office in Pasteur Street in Tehran.

If so, the nuclear negotiations in new Iranian government will be held in different situation; thus, the US may change its policy once more to pursue this time “zero nuclear bomb” policy instead of “zero nuclear breakout point” and it may be forced to give many concessions to Iran to avoid building nukes.


Therefore, it would be better for the Biden administration to prevent from such a dangerous path, lift all nuclear sanctions and return to the JCPOA as soon as possible to pave the way for Iran to fully implement its commitments under the deal.

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