The future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — better known as the Iran nuclear deal— will rely heavily on the result of the US presidential election this November, according to a former Iranian nuclear negotiator.
Iran: Carefully Thinking Over Its Options Regarding the Deal
The Iranian official—who was also a former nuclear negotiator—said that Tehran is politically and technically ready to pull out from the treaty following the US withdrawal, as Reuters cited. However, the official argued that Tehran should be smart and not be trapped by Washington’s trap that will push Iran to leave the agreement.
The statement came amid US President Donald Trump’s threat to reactivate a snapback clause after the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) failed to pass Washington’s proposal to restore the arms embargo on Iran.
Trump and his Democratic contender Joe Biden — a former two-term vice president under Barack Obama — will run as the Democratic candidate in the upcoming election. Many wonder whether Biden will return to the JCPOA if elected given that then-Barack Obama administration signed the deal in 2015 when Biden was the vice president.
The JCPOA: a Brief Overview
In 2015, Iran, the US, the UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany signed a long-term nuclear deal known as the JCPOA.
Under the agreement, Iran was only allowed to possess 300 kilograms of uranium compared to 100,000. The deal restricted Iran’s uranium enrichment up to 3.67 percent and stipulated that it must be used only for energy, far from the more than 90 percent needed to produce a nuclear weapons arsenal.
Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allowed inspection from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for the removal of economic sanctions.
However, Trump decided to abandon the deal unilaterally in 2018, slamming it for being ineffective in halting Iran’s nuclear ambition. Trump also criticized the JCPOA as the most embarrassing agreement in history.
In July 2019, Iran retaliated by deliberately enriching uranium above the limit stipulated in the agreement. In November 2019, NPR reported that Iran announced its plan to enrich uranium up to 5 percent.
The deal’s remaining signatories complained to Iran for not sticking to the agreement. However, those signatories still hope to save the agreement and opposed Washington’s unilateral withdrawal.
Biden’s Views on JCPOA
As the US election nears, many are hoping that the US will return to the JCPOA if Biden is elected. There is considerable belief that he may do so, given his experience as vice president under the Obama administration who helped to craft and sign the agreement in 2015.
“If Iran comes back into compliance with the deal, then yes, Joe Biden said we would do the same thing, but we would use that as a platform to try to build a stronger and longer deal working with our partners,” Biden’s foreign policy adviser Anthony Blanken told CBS News.
During his presidency, Obama called for a new chapter of the US-Iran relations. He uploaded the video on the Youtube account The Obama White House, which sent a warm message to Iranians.
However, if Biden is elected, he and his administration will face a tough challenge since US-Iran ties have reached a very low level under the Trump administration.
There are three main issues to be addressed should the Biden administration plan to restore the JCPOA; Iran’s undermining activities in the region, and the country’s continued strategy to produce its ballistic missiles, and the sunset clauses that remove restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enhancement program in 2025.
Joseph Rank, former acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy (2017-18), stated that offering some sanctions’ relief is the best way to persuade Tehran to return to the negotiating table.
JCPOA’s Signatories Should All Be Involved
Indonesian international affairs expert Yusran told Insideover that Germany, Russia, and China can play a role in pushing the US and Iran to return to the negotiating table due to their global influence.
“Germany is politically stable and has resources to be maximized. While Russia and China are among the world’s nuclear powerhouses,” Yusran said.