Iran Nuclear Deal

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    • The U.S. and Germany have stepped up pressure on Iran to return soon to talks on its nuclear programme.

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    • Meanwhile, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran has continued to increase its stockpile of highly enriched uranium in breach of the accord.
      • And, its verification and monitoring activities have been “seriously undermined”.
    • The last round of talks by the remaining parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear accord ended in June and no date has been set for their resumption.

    Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

    • In 2015, Iran agreed on a long-term deal on its nuclear programme with a group of world powers known as the P5+1 (the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany).
    • Under it, Iran agreed to significantly cut its stores of key components for nuclear weapons like centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy water.
      • Iran would only have enough enriched uranium to maintain its energy needs, without having the ability to build a nuclear bomb.
    • It also agreed to dismantle much of its nuclear programme and open its facilities to more extensive international inspections in exchange for billions of dollars worth of sanctions relief.
    • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) played an important role in enforcing the deal, keeping a check on Iran and inspections.

    Earlier Sanctions on Iran

    • The United Nations (UN), the US and the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions to force Iran to halt uranium enrichment.
    • It crippled Iran’s economy, costing it more than USD 160 billion in oil revenue from 2012 to 2016 alone.
    • Under JCPOA, Iran gained access to more than USD 100 billion in assets frozen overseas and was able to resume selling oil on international markets and using the global financial system for trade.

    US’s Withdrawal and Reinstated Sanctions

    • In May 2018, the US under President Donald Trump abandoned the deal.
      • The US held that the deal failed to address the threat of Iran’s missile programme and did not include a strong enough mechanism for inspections and verification of Iran’s nuclear sites.
    • In November 2018, he reinstated sanctions targeting both Iran and states that trade with it.
    • It resulted in a downturn in Iran’s economy, pushing the value of its currency to record lows, quadrupling its annual inflation rate, driving away foreign investors and triggering protests.
    • The UK, Germany and France opposed the sanctions and set up an alternative payment mechanism aimed at helping international companies trade with Iran without facing US penalties.
    • UN sanctions remain lifted but they would automatically “snap back” in place for 10 years, with the possibility of a five-year extension, if Iran violates any aspect of the deal.

    Current Dynamics

    • USA’s Stand:
      • It is ready to “re-engage in meaningful diplomacy” on the issue.
      • It intends to rejoin the deal but insists that Iran must return to full compliance with the agreement first.
    • Iran’s Stand:
      • Iran has ruled out holding an informal meeting with the US and European powers on reviving the deal, insisting that the US must lift all of its unilateral sanctions first.
    • Iran has also started to restrict some site inspections by the IAEA.
      • The move is aimed at putting further pressure on the US and other parties to get the sanctions on oil, banking and financial sectors lifted.
      • In the past, IAEA also highlighted that Iran has been increasing the production of enriched uranium.
    • The IAEA and Iranian diplomats have struck a “temporary” deal to continue inspection of Iran’s nuclear plants for three more months, which keeps open the diplomatic path to revive the deal.

    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.

    International Atomic Energy Agency

    • Popularly known as the world’s “Atoms for Peace and Developmentorganisation, the IAEA is the international centre for cooperation in the nuclear field.
    • It was established on 29th July 1957 as an autonomous organisation, at the height of the Cold War (1945-1991) between the US and the Soviet Union.
      • Post World War II (1945), the world got divided into two power blocs dominated by two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the US.
      • The two superpowers were primarily engaged in an ideological war between the capitalistic ideals of the West versus the communist ideals of the East.
      • It came to an end after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.
    • Though established independently of the UN through its own international treaty, the agency reports to both the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.
    • It works with the member states and multiple partners worldwide to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.
    • Functions and Contributions
      • As the preeminent nuclear watchdog, the IAEA is entrusted with the task of upholding the principles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, 1970.
      • Deals with the sovereign states and their pursuit of civil and military nuclear programmes.
      • It is also active in championing civil nuclear solutions to a number of areas like health, which is one of the main areas of peaceful application of nuclear know-how.
      • In recent years, the IAEA is also active in dealing with climate change, pandemic containment and in the prevention of Zoonotic diseases.
    • Concerns and Criticisms
      • Lack of Executive Authority: It has proved ineffective in preventing power politics from influencing nuclear negotiations.
      • Lack of Enforcement Capability: Due to IAEA’s “uneven authority” as it has no power to override the sovereign rights of any member nation of the UN.
      • Secretive & Less Transparent: As a partner to some of the complex and high stakes diplomacy, the IAEA has an air of secrecy around its functions and is accused of not being transparent about its actions.
      • Non-challenging Nature: It never challenges the nuclear dominance of the five permanent members of the UNSC, who themselves hold some of the biggest nuclear arsenals of the world.
      • Selective Information Sharing: Allegations have also hinted that IAEA inspectors and observers share information with the US government.

     

    Source: TH