Why is US pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal?

On Wednesday, we heard news that President Donald Trump would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. Thereby it would impose the sanctions that were present prior to the deal. This comes as another decision solely taken by Trump even though many advised him against the same. This article looks into what the Iran Nuclear Deal is, how it came to be, what the reasons for America pulling out are and it’ll affect the nations going forward.

Why does Iran want/have nuclear weapons?

Iran is in a region which is considered extremely volatile, both politically and economically. Not only does it have to face opposition from the world leaders such as America, but also needs to stay ahead and protect itself from the regional strife in the Middle East/West Asia. Understandably, being in possession of nuclear weapons would equate the playing field, and make Iran stronger.

But Iran’s official stand is that Iran does not have any nuclear weapons. As recently as April 2018, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stuck to this stance. But this position was challenged when Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, revealed that Iran was lying about its nuclear weapons programme. Israel had got hold of more than 100,000 files and roughly 180 CDs obtained from an Iranian “atomic archive” and shared the same with US. The documents date back to the the pre-deal period. Thus it is still not clear whether there have been any violations of the Nuclear deal.

What is the JCPOA/ Iran Nuclear Deal?

The JCPOA stands for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It was entered into on 14th July 2015 between Iran, United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and the European Union. According to the deal, the severe sanctions on Iran would be lifted. In turn, Iran would stop or reduce its nuclear stockpiles.

They entered into the treaty because it was considered the best means of a peaceful diffusion of an escalating situation leading to arms race. In the interview with the National Public Radio, Barack Obama succinctly puts up his reason for entering into this deal:

My goal, when I came into office, was to make sure that Iran did not get a nuclear weapon and thereby trigger a nuclear arms race in the most volatile part of the world. And prior to me coming into office, we had seen Iran’s program go very quickly and have a whole bunch of centrifuges reduce the timeline in which they could break out and obtain a nuclear weapon if they so chose.

And because of the hard diplomatic work that we did internationally, as well as help from Congress, we were able to impose some really significant sanctions, brought them to the table.

We’re now in a position where Iran has agreed to unprecedented inspections and verifications of its program, providing assurances that it is peaceful in nature. You have them rolling back a number of pathways that they currently have available to break out and get a nuclear weapon. You have assurances that their stockpile of highly enriched uranium remains in a place where they cannot create a nuclear weapon.

The following table gives a clear picture of the effects of the JCPOA.

Capability Before JCPOA After JCPOA
(for 10-year period)
After 15 years
centrifuges installed
19,138 capped at 6,104 Unconstrained
Advanced centrifuges installed 1,008 0 Unconstrained
Centrifuge R&D Unconstrained Constrained Unconstrained
Stockpile of
low-enriched uranium
7,154 kg 300 kg Unconstrained
Stockpile of
medium-enriched uranium
196 kg 0 kg Unconstrained

It also ensures transparency and implementation.

Iran will allow the IAEA to monitor the implementation of the voluntary measures for their respective durations, as well as to implement transparency measures, as set out in this JCPOA and its Annexes. These measures include: a long-term IAEA presence in Iran; IAEA monitoring of uranium ore concentrate produced by Iran from all uranium ore concentrate plants for 25 years; containment and surveillance of centrifuge rotors and bellows for 20 years; use of IAEA approved and certified modern technologies including on-line enrichment measurement and electronic seals; and a reliable mechanism to ensure speedy resolution of IAEA access concerns for 15 years, as defined in Annex I.

Why is Trump then deciding to back out from the Treaty?

Image result for trump holding up the document where he signed the withdrawal of the Iran Nuclear Deal

On 8th May 2018, President Trump announced that US will be withdrawing from the JCPOA. The Iran Nuclear Deal has always been a point to raise in many of President Trump’s agendas. Right from his presidential campaign, Trump has been against the JCPOA. This is because Trump has felt that US entered into a one-sided agreement, where Iran gets to enjoy all the benefits without any sanctions. BBC reports:

In his address on Tuesday, Mr Trump called the nuclear accord – or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as it is formally known – a “horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made”.

Mr Trump alleged that the deal did not restrict Iran’s “destabilising activities” in the region enough, and could not detect or prevent any breaking of the terms of the deal.

The reason for Trump’s decision closely follows with his success in diffusing the North Korea-South Korea war. Trump feels that applying the same amount of pressure to Iran as he did to North Korea would provide him with better results. So essentially what Trump wanted was either better terms for continuation of the negotiation or withdrawing from the Treaty.  And on 8th, he withdrew.

You can have a better understanding of Trump’s reasoning by watching his speech below:

How are others taking this news?

As expected, this act has again created a furor in internatonal relations. A month ago Iran threatened that there would be grave repercussions if US withdrew. Yet, they haven’t expanded on their threats. France, UK and Germany in fact tried to convince Trump to be a part of the deal. Although President Macron tried his best to persuade Trump during his visit to America, the same has not been successful.

Russia and China are condemning the act of US. They state that this is not a bilateral treaty to withdraw from one; and that such withdrawal will have repercussions. Even former President Barack Obama has termed the pull-out method of Trump a serious mistake.

There is mixed reaction in Iran. There are some who believe that the sanctions will be against the people more than the government. Hardliners feel happy that US is no longer part of any deal with Iran as there is a deep mistrust between the two. Although the other parties to the JCPOA have assured that they would not withdraw, the action by US has left a bad taste. The bonafide trust seems to be in jeopardy. We need to wait and watch how Iran reacts to it.

Stay tuned as there will be more updates as the events unfurl. Let me know what you think will happen next!

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