Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
THE increasing influence of Iran in the Middle Eastern political landscape frustrates the United States and its regional allies. They are worried about Iranians’ fissile material production potential and long-range ballistic missile program. They seem convinced that without the regime change, subjugating Tehran is impossible. Politically, they are incapable to change the regime; therefore, they are contemplating to jeopardize the economic growth of Iran and also initiate military action against it. President Trump announced the United States withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally termed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and reimpose of sanctions on Iran on May 8, 2018. He expressed his dissatisfaction on deal because it does not minimise or curtail Tehran’s role in Middle Eastern politics, it does not curb its conventional military potential including ballistic missile development programme and above all, it does not transform Iran’s political system.
President Donald Trump’s latest Middle Eastern adventure is not only disturbing Tehran but also unnerving the other members of the JCPOA. It was signed by the United States, Iran, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany to prevent Tehran from acquiring weapons-grade fissile material capability. Many analysts predicted that quashing of JCPOA could unleash horizontal nuclear weapons proliferation. Hence, the remaining members of JCPOA have been struggling to protect the agreement. Ironically, the Trump administration is ignoring the probability of Tehran’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The scuttle of JCPOA also undermines UK, France, Germany, and EU economic interest. Conversely, it provides Russia and China diplomatic, economic and military advantages. Therefore, any move in the United Nations Security Council against Iran’s will be vetoed by China and Russia.
The Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter adopted JCPOA unanimously. It is legally binding on all the United Nations member states. Therefore, the US unilateral imposing of sanctions, which were explicitly lifted under the JCPOA, is a violation of Security Council resolutions and international law. President Hassan Rouhani stated that Iran would continue to adhere to its commitments under the JCPOA. Hence, Tehran continues observing the moratorium on uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing. Being a party to NPT, Iran can enrich uranium or reprocess the spent fuel of the nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes. However, it is not allowed to acquire high-enriched uranium or weapons-grade plutonium. The JCPOA barred Iran from Uranium enrichment and reprocessing. Despite it, Tehran has been struggling to save the nuclear deal. On May 14, 2018, its Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Moscow aimed at saving the Iran nuclear deal following the United States’ withdrawal. On May 13, 2018, he visited Beijing for securing China’s support in encountering the American’s sanctions and saving the JCPOA. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi assured his Iranian counterpart that “China will take an objective, fair and responsible attitude, keep communication and cooperation with all parties concerned, and continue to work to maintain the deal.”
Presently, except the United States, remaining six parties to JCPOA has expressed their willingness to continue their adherence to the Agreement. They believe that JCPOA is the appropriate arrangement to keep Iran within the NPT framework and prevent it to accumulate weapon-grade fissile material clandestinely. For instance, JCPOA resulted in the dismantling of two-thirds of Iran’s nearly 20000 uranium centrifuges, its entire plutonium facility and relinquished about 97% percent of its nearly eight tons of low enriched uranium stockpile. In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors’ received unprecedented powers to monitor Iran’s nuclear facilities in perpetuity. The Americans presently have no substantial trade with Iran, therefore, its economic sanctions will not be having much impact on Iran’s economy. However, the US European allies are having trade with Iran. The Europeans desire to keep Iran’s oil and gas products selling, continue sea, land, air and rail transportation relations with Tehran, maintaining effective banking transactions and protecting European investments in Iran. The Americans can destabilise Iranian economy through the secondary sanctions. It was reported that the US has given all firms, not just European ones, between three and six months to wind down their business dealings with Iran. After the expiring of the date, the Trump administration will demand that those countries choose between the US financial system and Iran. Indeed, the European firms will choose American financial system. To conclude, the economic sanctions may create economic fragility entailing political instability or popular revolt for a transformation of the political system. The military adventurism against Iran either by American forces or Israel to destroy its nuclear facility(s) will be having serious repercussions for the regional security and international economy. Iran has a potential to retaliate against Israeli surgical strikes and is also capable to disturb the Persian/Arabian Gulf trade.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.