Understanding The Iran Deal Dispute Mechanism

On 14 January, Germany, France and Britain formally triggered the dispute mechanism of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. Which was signed in Vienna on July 14, 2015.

The decision was triggered by Iran’s announcement that it would no longer adhere to the limits of uranium enrichment agreed under the deal. This followed the killing of one of its top military commanders, General Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad. Tehran has, however, promised to continue cooperating with UN nuclear inspectors.

The action by the three European countries could see sanctions being re-imposed on Iran for failing to meet its commitments to the deal. However, they also  emphasised that their aim is to make the deal survive and not the re-imposition of sanctions.

“Our countries are not joining a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran,” They said. “Our hope is to bring Iran back into full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA.”

How does the JPOA dispute mechanism work?

According to the JPOA agreement, “If Iran believed that any member or all of the E3/EU+3 were not meeting their commitments under the JCPOA , Iran could refer the Issue to the joint Commission for resolution. Similarly, if any of the E3 /EU+3 believed that Iran was not meeting its commitments under the JCPOA, any of the E3 /EU+3 could do the same.”

In the current case, since Iran is the accused it will be referred to a joint commission made up of representatives from Iran itself, Russia, China, Germany, France and the European Union.

The Joint Commission will have 15 days to resolve the issue, unless the time period is extended by consensus. In case the issue is not resolved by the Joint Commission, any participant will be able to refer it to Foreign Affairs Ministers of the countries that are signatory to the nuclear deal. This would take 15 days unless the extension of the time period is made by consensus.

If Iran is not satisfied with the decision of the Joint Commission, and Foreign Affairs Ministers, it could request for the matter to be considered by an Advisory Board made up of three members, “one each appointed by the participants in the dispute and a third independent member.”

The Advisory Board should be able to provide a non binding opinion or suggestion on the matter within 15 days. If, after the 30 day process the issue is not resolved, then the Joint Commission would consider the opinion of the Advisory Board for no more than five days in order to resolve it.

If the Iran uranium enrichment issue still has not been resolved to the satisfaction of France, UK and Germany who are the complaining participants, and if they deem “the issue to constitute significant non performance, then they would treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments under the JCPOA in whole or in part and/or notify the UN Security Council that it believes the issue constitutes significant non performance.”

Upon receiving the notification from Germany, Britain and France, as described above including a description of the good faith efforts they may have made to “exhaust the dispute resolution process specified in the JCPOA , the UN Security Council, in accordance with its procedures, shall vote on a resolution to continue the sanctions lifting on Iran.”

If the resolution described above has not been adopted within 30 days of the notification, then the sanctions in all previous provision of the old UN Security Council resolutions would be re-imposed on Iran, unless the UN Security Council decides otherwise.

In such events, the provisions would not apply “to contacts signed between any party and Iran or Iranian individuals and entities prior to the date of application, provided that the activities contemplated under an execution of such contracts are consistent with the JCPOA and the previous and current UN Security Council resolutions.”

The JCPOA agreement further states that, “The UN Security Council, expressing its intention to prevent the reapplication of the provisions if the issue giving rise to the notification is resolved within this period, intends to take into account the views of the States involved in the issue and any opinion on the issue of the Advisory Board.”