Iran pushes limits of nuclear deal
July 15, 2019 -- Iran says that it will gradually scale back its adherence to the 2015 nuclear pact unless European signatories keep to their obligations to compensate Tehran for losses inflicted by U.S. sanctions.
European foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Brussels on July 15 in a bid to coordinate a response.
The 2015 nuclear deal -- known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA -- was agreed between U.S., France, Germany, UK, Russia and China, following secret talks between President Barack Obama’s administration and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.
In May 2018, President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA. Since then, the Trump administration has threatened any country that imports Iranian crude oil with U.S. sanctions.
Under JCPOA, there are mechanisms to deter each party from breaching its commitments. One such procedure is the so-called “snapback” mechanism which would allow an aggrieved party to the deal to reinstate previously lifted Security Council sanctions against Iran without a vote by the Council. Using snapback, anti-Iran hawks in Washington can single-handedly force the re-imposition of pre-JCPOA UN sanctions.
Under another mechanism enshrined in Article 36 of the JCPOA, Iran can treat “significant non-performance” by its counterparts as grounds “to cease performing its commitments under the JCPOA in whole or in part” until others are brought back to order.
Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, is using Article 36 to insist that the “E3 powers” -- Germany, France and the UK -- and the EU do more to compensate Tehran for economic losses inflicted by U.S. sanctions -- otherwise, Iranians will continue to gradually exceed limits on their nuclear fuel production.
Takht-Ravanchi argues that the U.S. defection in 2018, and Europe’s inability to stick to their obligations means Iran cannot be deemed as the initial defector of JCPOA.
At a meeting of the foreign ministers of Iran, the E3, and EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini in May 2018, it was agreed that sanctions should be lifted to enable Iran to reap the economic benefits of the nuclear deal.
The practical solutions the E3 and EU undertook included maintaining banking channels with Iran, supporting trade with Iran, especially by small and medium-sized companies, and protecting Iran’s oil exports.
In June 2019, the G3 and EU implemented INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) -- a transaction channel to allow companies to continue trading with Iran despite U.S. sanctions. The move puts Europe on a collision course with Washington.
For its part, Iran has said that it will continue to reduce its adherence to JCPOA every 60 days, in steps designed to avoid snapback. Tehran could boost uranium enrichment to 20 per cent, use advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium more quickly, and change the Arak heavy water reactor to its original design, which could facilitate the production of weapons-grade plutonium.