“Iran nuclear record” at risk of setback to square one

Friday, 2018-06-29 12:27:41
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A general overview of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, some 1,200km south of Tehran, October 26, 2010. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – The United States is increasing pressure on Iran after President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, known as the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)”.

European countries are facing tough choices as they want to save the historic deal, but do not want to damage their interest relations with the US. Tehran’s recent moves on the possibility of increasing uranium enrichment capacity can be seen as Iran’s stiff response to pressure from the US.

President Trump’s administration is taking steps to show its tougher policies aimed at Iran, as Washington seeks ways to keep Tehran isolated, both economically and politically. A US official recently warned that all countries should stop importing oil from Iran if they do not want to face US sanctions. Increasing pressure on Tehran is one of the top priorities of the Washington administration as it aims to implement its national security safeguarding policy.

Many European companies and multinational corporations are forced to choose between the newly launched business in Iran and a long-term business relationship with US partners. Earlier, the importers of Iran’s crude oil expected the US to extend the time so that they could gradually reduce the volume of imported oil. However, the US government had no plan to stop sanctions on Iran, but asked the oil exporting nations in the Middle East to ensure the supply for international markets in the time ahead.

European countries have repeatedly pledged their efforts to save the Iran nuclear deal without US involvement. However, the absence of such an important world player as the US will make it difficult for European powers to fulfill their promises. Despite always promising to promptly introduce a package of measures to safeguard Iran’s interests in the JCPOA, a month has gone by with Europe still yet to work out the provisions that both meet Iran’s demands and spare European firms from US sanctions. Three European signatories to the JCPOA, namely the UK, France and Germany, together with the European Union (EU), have pledged to provide a package of practical steps to satisfy Iran’s requirements, including the issues of oil trading, oil transportation, and payment of oil purchase deals.

Meanwhile, although the new US sanctions have had significant impacts on the socio-economic situation in Iran, the Islamic nation resolutely refuses dialogue with the US on the new terms of the nuclear agreement. Spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), Behrouz Kamalvandi, urged Europe to make their decision on the issue of maintaining the nuclear deal by the end of June, warning that Iran has prepared to resume its nuclear activities at a greater speed, aiming to compensate for the period of time that they observe commitments to limiting their nuclear program.

AEOI also stated that Iran has restarted work on a nuclear plant which has suspended operations for the past nine years. A plant manufacturing UF6 (uranium hexafluoride), a material for uranium enrichment centrifuges, has also been restarted. It can be said that this move is a clear response from Iran, demonstrating that they are not tolerant of the US’s requests for changes in the nuclear agreement.

The Iran nuclear deal has helped to reduce the West’s concerns about Tehran’s uranium enrichment activities. However, Washington’s increasing pressure on Iran through economic sanctions has led to Tehran’s ability to resume nuclear activities at a greater speed. The “Iran nuclear record” is likely to be set back to square one, while the negotiation and diplomatic efforts related to the JCPOA are on the verge of ending up in smoke. The geopolitical situation in the Middle East could heat up again unless a solution is found to save the historic nuclear deal.