Iran Nuclear Deal

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    • Western diplomats have set a deadline of later this month to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, signed under President Barack Obama, and dismantled in 2018 by President Donald Trump.

    About

    • The deal, formally known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is a landmark accord signed between Iran and a coalition of world powers including the US, the UK, China, Russia, France, and Germany (collectively known as P5+1).
    • Aim: The deal promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme, and is meant to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. 

    Iran’s stand

    • Iran agreed to dismantle much of Iran’s nuclear programme, and open its facilities to greater international monitoring.
    • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA): Iran also agreed to implement a protocol that would allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to access its nuclear sites to ensure Iran would not be able to develop nuclear weapons in secret.
      • Iran announced new restrictions on the IAEA’s ability to inspect facilities, and later ended its monitoring agreement with the agency.
    • Iran’s economy, after suffering years of recessions, currency depreciation, and inflation, stabilized significantly after the deal took effect, and its exports skyrocketed.
    • Iran accused the US of reneging on its commitments, and blamed Europe for capitulating to US unilateralism.

    US and Other countries stand

    • Lift many of the sanctions: In return, the world powers agreed to lift many of the sanctions imposed on the country, opening its economy to billions of dollars of lost revenue.
    • The world powers wanted to restrict Iran’s nuclear capabilities to the point that it would take Iran at least a year to build a weapon, giving them adequate time to prepare and respond.
    • They focused on eliminating Iran’s stockpiles of enriched uranium and plutonium (needed to produce a nuclear weapon), and on limiting the number and type of centrifuges Iran could operate.
    • The West agreed to lift sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear proliferation, other sanctions addressing alleged abuses of human rights and Tehran’s ballistic missile programme remained in place.
      • The US committed to lifting sanctions on oil exports, but continued to restrict financial transactions, which have deterred international trade with Iran.
    • The US would have to factor in not only Iran’s nuclear programme but also its increasingly hostile behavior in the region. It would also have to take into consideration the reality of the new multipolar world, in which its unilateral leadership is no longer guaranteed.
      • In its efforts to revive the deal, the US would have to deal with Russia and China, countries with which its relations are especially tense and rancorous right now.

    Issues

    • Rapid nuclear escalation: American officials are concerned about Iran’s rapid nuclear escalation after the US abandoned the deal.
    • Iran has rejected any deadline imposed by the West: Unless negotiations progress substantively and soon, many Western diplomats fear the existing deal’s point of no return may come soon.
    • Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East, strongly rejected the deal, and other countries like Iran’s great regional rival Saudi Arabia, complained that they were not involved in the negotiations even though Iran’s nuclear programme posed security risks for every country in the region.
    • Since 2015, Iran has increased its support for regional proxies, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US has designated a terrorist organisation, has expanded its activities.

    Significance for India

    • Removing sanctions may revive India’s interest in the Chabahar port, Bandar Abbas port, and other plans for regional connectivity.
    • This would further help India to neutralize the Chinese presence in Gwadar port, Pakistan.
    • Restoration of ties between the US and Iran will help India to procure cheap Iranian oil and aid in energy security.

     Way Forward

    • The US will rejoin the agreement if Iran complies with the terms of the original deal, and if it addresses other issues related to alleged ballistic missile stockpiles and the proxy conflicts that it backs across the region.
    • INSTEX: The other powers, in an attempt to keep the deal alive, launched a barter system known as INSTEX to facilitate transactions with Iran outside the US banking system.
      • However, INSTEX only covered food and medicine, which were already exempt from US sanctions.

    Source: IE