The 2015 Iran nuclear agreement formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) also known as ‘Iran nuclear deal’ or ‘Iran deal’ has expired this October after 5 years resulting in the normalization of Iran’s defence transfers with the world. JCPOA is an agreement signed by Iran and the P5+1+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and European Union) on July 14, 2015. This nuclear deal aimed to prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon by putting curbs on its atomic programme while rewarding it with economic incentives for cooperation.
As per the deal, Iran had to reduce the number of its centrifuges used for enriching uranium by two-thirds, restricting its uranium enrichment to 3.67% and removing the core of its heavy water facility in Arak. The verification of the agreement was under the purview of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran nuclear deal had a 15-year term. This was the first-ever United Nations Security Council (UNSC) recognised agreement on the nuclear enrichment program of a developing country via Resolution 2231.
Iranian Foreign Ministry has released a statement on termination of UNSC Security arms restrictions and travel ban, stating the ‘definitive and unconditional termination of arms restrictions and travel bans requires no new resolution’.
On the issue of arms transfers the Iranian foreign ministry states “Therefore, as of today, the Islamic Republic of Iran may procure any necessary arms and equipment from any source without any legal restrictions and solely based on its defensive needs, and may also export defensive armaments based on its own policies. It should be underlined here that rejecting imposition in any form is the cornerstone of Iran’s foreign policy.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to microblogging site Twitter acknowledging the “international community, which— in defiance of malign US efforts—has protected UNSC Res. 2231 and the JCPOA.”
The US Sanctions remain
The expiry of JCPOA may not mean much to Iran as the United States had withdrawn from the agreement on May 8, 2018. Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US Republicans had opposed JCPOA. Donald Trump had promised to abandon the deal in the keynote of his 2016 election campaign as it lacked control over Iran’s ballistic missile programme. Since the withdrawal, the US has progressively tightened sanctions against Iran.
However, UNSC Resolution 2231 already requires Security Council approval until 2023 for sending Iran any item on the MTCR Annex—or any other items, materials, equipment, goods, or technology that a member state determines could contribute to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.
“The very same procedure (JCPOA) is applied for the termination of missile-related restrictions in the year 2023, and the subsequent conclusion of “consideration of the Iranian nuclear issue” in the Security Council in the year 2025,” says the Iranian Foreign Ministry release.
As per the Donald Trump Administration, peace in the Middle East is contingent on Iran. “The Trump Administration has always understood that the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East comes from the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose violent efforts to spread revolution have killed thousands and upended the lives of millions of innocent people. History shows appeasement only emboldens such regimes,” said Michael R Pompeo, the US Secretary of State in a press statement on 19 September.
Since the US was isolated over the extension of JCPOA, Pompeo promised to tighten the US sanction against Iran. “In the coming days, the United States will announce a range of additional measures to strengthen the implementation of UN sanctions and hold violators accountable. Our maximum pressure campaign on the Iranian regime will continue until Iran reaches a comprehensive agreement with us to rein in its proliferation threats and stops spreading chaos, violence, and bloodshed,” said Pompeo.
On September 21, the US State Department issued new sweeping sanctions on Iran naming individuals and entities from Iran’s defence and nuclear establishments and anyone found trading in conventional weapons with Iran. Pompeo also said that France, Germany and the United Kingdom will be responsible for enforcement in addition to compliance.
Iran China Deal
Iran is playing the China card in case of further sanctions. “Fruitful talks in beautiful Tengchong with my friend Wang Yi (Chinese Foreign Minister) on the Iran-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Rejected US unilateralism and US attempts to create unipolar world Agreed on strengthening our ties incl 25-yr plan, regional coop, preserving JCPOA & vaccine collab,” tweeted Mohammad Javad Zarif on October 10.
Iran is primarily dependent on Russia and China for its military imports. However, with the US restrictions in place, the payment in dollars is not an option and it becomes difficult for Iran to remit large sums of money to these countries. The US has placed such sanctions on Russian entities too.