Jawaria Waheed |
13 years after the nuclear activities of Iran were exposed an agreement was finally concluded on 14th July 2015 in Vienna, Austria which is known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This agreement was an important development in the Middle Eastern politics and altered the nature of long-standing animosity between Iran and United States. Implications of the agreement on regional dynamics in the Middle East and larger non-proliferation regimes would be visible after 10-15 years. Therefore, it is imperative to understand its nature and implication mechanism because this agreement will have profound implications on regional stability, US foreign policy, politics of Middle East, international economics and the global effort to stem the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
In order to operationalize the agreement, United Nations passed Resolution 2231 on 20th July 2015 to endorse it.
JCPOA was signed between P5+1 (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China) and Iran as a product of nearly two years of negotiations. It is a complicated and lengthy document including the main agreement and five annexes. In order to operationalize the agreement, United Nations passed Resolution 2231 on 20th July 2015 to endorse it. This was intended to stop or limit Iran of its nuclear ambitions and to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful. Provisions on inspection and verification in the agreement place physical constraints by preventing Iran from producing fissile material for nuclear weapons for at least 10 to 15 years.
Assessment of the agreement reveals that it has weaknesses as well as strengths with reference to the central objective of the agreement which is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Even if this agreement deters Iran from its weaponization and the production of fissile material of its declared facilities it does not ensure that Iran would give up on its nuclear ambitions once the agreement ends.
PARAMETERS FOR JCPOA
Possible Military Dimensions, sanctions in case of cheating the agreement, duration of the agreement that has a lot to do with the impact of this agreement.
The assessment of the agreement is to be made keeping in mind the Inspection mechanism which this agreement initiated to keep a check on Iran. Possible Military Dimensions, sanctions in case of cheating the agreement, duration of the agreement that has a lot to do with the impact of this agreement. As the agreement will expire after 15 years it raises questions on the behavior of Iran afterward and the change in the regional approach of the country.
Under JCPOA Plutonium production is made limited as Iran is not allowed to build heavy water reactors or a reprocessing facility for separating Plutonium from spent fuel for at least 15 years.
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action creates a system of checks and balances on Iran by keeping a record of its nuclear fissile material as provided by Iran and also to continuously keep an eye on its underlying activities through International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Under JCPOA Plutonium production is made limited as Iran is not allowed to build heavy water reactors or a reprocessing facility for separating Plutonium from spent fuel for at least 15 years. Research reactors would not be allowed to produce a large amount of Plutonium, the spent fuel will be shipped out of the country for a lifetime so that its reuse could be avoided and any attempt to produce or divert plutonium secretly would be detected quickly.
However, there are less robust physical limits on the enrichment of Uranium at declared facilities in the JCPOA. According to JCPOA Iran is required to dismantle its two-third installed centrifuges and must also eliminate 98% of its currently enriched uranium stock. But it also permits Iran to hold on to a sizeable uranium enrichment infrastructure and to initiate expanding that infrastructure after 10 years. Iran will confine the types and number of installed centrifuges that were previously operating at Natanz, will end enrichment process at Fordow, will bound the process of conducting research on advanced centrifuges, will sustain a small stockpile of low-enriched uranium and will cap the extent of enrichment for the duration of 10 to 15 years. (Bunn, 2015)
Verification regime of JCPOA has two basic objectives:
- Firstly, it is intended at verifying that particular limits are being observed at stated nuclear facilities, such as Natanz, Fordow, Arak, and Esfahan. Also, that nuclear material will not be diverted to undeclared uses in those particular sites.
- Secondly, it will be a foil for national intelligence efforts to assist in deterring or detecting any effort that connects in clandestine or undeclared nuclear activities outlawed by the JCPOA.
So, this deal becomes dangerous because it fails to achieve “anytime, anywhere” inspections and relinquishes preclusion provided by surprise inspections.
Under this agreement, there is no room for surprise inspection but instead, IAEA would be requested to investigate an undeclared spot which might take up to 24 days. During this period Iran could easily cover up or displace most nuclear-related activities. So, this deal becomes dangerous because it fails to achieve “anytime, anywhere” inspections and relinquishes preclusion provided by surprise inspections.
POSSIBLE MILITARY DIMENSIONS (PMD)
Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) refers to the IAEA’s long-running investigation of Iran’s nuclear program before 2003 and its ongoing research on nuclear weapons since that time.
Read more: Russia cautions US: Don’t break US-Iran Deal
Aron Arnold in the “US-Iran nuclear deal- A definitive guide” figured out some Possible Military Dimensions of Iran nuclear deal. These are highlighted in Annex II of JCPOA which includes:
- A program management structure overseen by the Iranian military sanctions.
- Undeclared procurement activities
- Undeclared nuclear material acquisition
- Work on nuclear components for an explosive device
- Detonator development
- Initiation of high explosives and associated experiments
- Hydrodynamic experiments (testing nuclear weapons designs without fissile material)
- Modeling and calculations on explosive compression of highly enriched uranium
- Neutron Initiator manufacture
- Planning and preparatory experimentation for a nuclear test
- Engineering studies to integrate a spherical payload into a missile delivery vehicle
- Studies on a fusing, firing, and arming system
The prohibitions placed under JCPOA on the possible nuclear activities of Iran will be helpful to evaluate Iran’s nuclear intentions and as possible constraints on Iran’s actual behavior during and after the agreement expires.
Because of the reason that actions required by Iran were not made public so the provisions of the JCPOA to resolve the Possible Military Dimension cannot be fully evaluated. The prohibitions placed under JCPOA on the possible nuclear activities of Iran will be helpful to evaluate Iran’s nuclear intentions and as possible constraints on Iran’s actual behavior during and after the agreement expires.
In the resolution of PMD, this deal is considered a bit unclear as it raises more questions than it answers. For example, the deal is unclear on whether IAEA inspections teams will be permitted to look over Parchin or other military facilities and have complete access to the scientists as well as the documents. Also, without understanding the full extent of Iran’s previous nuclear weaponization efforts, the IAEA will be short of a sufficient baseline to form justly effectual inspections and verification regime. The Iranian regime has partially answered only one question out of 12 IAEA questions despite the fact that it has promised to satisfy IAEA. There is no explicit penalty in case if the IAEA is unsatisfied with the findings in this information-sharing agreement with Iran.
In case if Iran verifiably abides by its commitments that were made in the agreement Iran will be calmed from sanctions. If there are substantial violations observed, the JCPOA and UN Resolution 2231 will immediately activate the process of UN sanctions automatically where the efficacy of the snapback procedure has faced substantial scrutiny.
All previous resolutions of United Nations Security Council related to Iran nuclear issue will be waived off by Iran instantaneously with the completion of nuclear-related actions that address all major concerns about enrichment, PMD, transparency at Fordow and Arak.
Observing the behavior and conformity of Iran that Iran has taken all of its major nuclear-related steps its sanctions will be waived off. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back as it existed before. U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for a great deal of the duration of the treaty and will allow to snapback those sanctions in case of momentous non-performance. All previous resolutions of United Nations Security Council related to Iran nuclear issue will be waived off by Iran instantaneously with the completion of nuclear-related actions that address all major concerns about enrichment, PMD, transparency at Fordow and Arak. However, the core provisions of the UN resolutions elaborates that those deals with reference to the transfers of susceptible technologies and actions will be re-established under a new resolution that will endorse the JCPOA and will urge its full implementation as well.
The loopholes in the mechanism to punish Iran are to be analyzed considering the “snapback” process. “Snapback” is the process to restore sanctions and is a complex process because it requires up to 65 days. Only “significant non-performance” by Iran is the subject to UN mechanism and it does not specify the possible consequences for minor violations.
According to Iran, it has been stated that if in any case sanctions were reinstated in whole or in part than Iran will treat it as an argument to close down its commitment under the JCPOA in whole or in part. It will hence make the countries cautious of utilizing the snapback system in all cases. Even if “snapback” process is invoked, sanctions would “not apply with retroactive effect to contracts signed between any party and Iran” prior to the “snapback.” In other words, there is an ambiguity as to whether the “snapback” process would affect signed contracts. Because if it does then it will make the countries whose companies have made investments in Iran are very unwilling to entail the “snapback” provision. But if it does not then it means that all contracts signed before “snapback” process are grandfathered in too. So, it can be concluded that sanctions relief should have been provided slowly but surely, in order to umpire Iranian observance over the period of time.
Duration of the treaty is a significant parameter as it begins to haul up the key nuclear restrictions just after eight years and will grant Iran almost instant breakout time after 15 years. This deal granted Iran a lasting sanctions release in substitute for momentary limitations on its nuclear program. The infrastructure of international sanctions will be dismantled in exchange for the Iran’s extending its breakout time by a matter of months all the way through the duration of this deal. The consequence of the deal would be expired after 15 years of its duration.
According to JCPOA Iranian nuclear program will be treated the same way as of any other non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT. Iran would be having an industrialized nuclear infrastructure that will be capable of breaking out in a subject of days, without the menace of timely finding. This deal does not require Iran to wipe out or fully decommission even one uranium enrichment centrifuge.
Over half of Iran’s currently operating centrifuges will continue to spin at Natanz. Likewise, the more than 1,000 centrifuges at Fordow will remain intact some idled and others spinning without uranium. After eight years, Iran can begin to manufacture advanced centrifuges that enrich up to 15 times the speed of its current models.
IMPLICATIONS AND POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES
- CIVIL-NUCLEAR COOPERATION
The JCPOA contains such provisions for civil-nuclear cooperation in a wide array of areas. Those countries that are party to this deal ensured to set off collaboration with Iran by facilitating Iran’s getting hold of light-water research and also power reactors which will include construction, providing instrumentation, bringing of equipment, training, and technological review.
- By the construction of modified Arak heavy-water project far-reaching cooperation will be entailed that will be further facilitated by an operational group of the P5+1 and Iran and is supported by an international joint venture which could include and involve other countries as mutually agreed partners to the deal.
- The P5+1 will be supporting and will provide assistance to Iran in gathering international standards for the manufacture of nuclear fuel and will also hunt for cooperation on supplying fictitious equipment.
- For the setting-up of 2 centrifuge cascades in Fordow facility, that are used for stable isotope construction, Russia also decided to associate with Iran.
- Iran will have to launch a Nuclear Safety Centerand will seek to slot in regulatory authorities in other countries to lend a hand.
- JCPOA ensures that Iran will hunt for help in part of nuclear medicine that will be including upgrades to its infrastructure that is used for radio-isotope manufacture.
- The P5+1 are well prepared for cooperating with Iran on intensifying security of nuclear materials by means of workshops, training, issues of waste management and facility decommissioning. Opponents of the deal whereas mark this cooperation to end in negative as the agreement could allow Iran to form partnerships and gain access to technology that would help it sustain and eventually expand its nuclear program once restrictions are lifted
IRAN’S PATENT PATHWAY TO A NUCLEAR BOMB:
It allows Iran to legally begin expanding ballistic missile program. Under the guise of satellite testing, Iran has also continued mounting up its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) program. Sanctions of European Union terminate on Iran’s military after eight years. Considering all this Iran can possibly argue that all such sanctions per deal that obstruct normalization of trade and economics must be lifted as it is creating hindrances in its attempt to cope up with economic challenges.
Those scholars who consider it as an unacceptable deal believe that it is a dangerous deal as it is giving Iran a safe path to its ultimate nuclear ambitions. If Iran tolerantly follows the set of laws of this deal and by no means cheats then it will still achieve a “legitimate” nuclear weapons potential. In an idealistic situation in which if Iran fully cooperates then this short period to appraise Iran’s capabilities means that IAEA will have some degree of space to determine exceptional issues. Iran gets up to $150 billion as sanctions wind down and in addition to that new oil revenue and foreign outlay. Iran builds economic potency, resilience and increases support for terrorist groups to bolsters its regional proxies as well. UN arms restriction on conventional weapons will be lifted in first five years. Iran legally purchases weapons and endow with allies and proxies with tanks, aircraft, helicopters, warships and heavy artillery. It allows Iran to legally begin expanding ballistic missile program. Under the guise of satellite testing, Iran has also continued mounting up its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) program. Sanctions of European Union terminate on Iran’s military after eight years. Considering all this Iran can possibly argue that all such sanctions per deal that obstruct normalization of trade and economics must be lifted as it is creating hindrances in its attempt to cope up with economic challenges. In ten years the resolution of UN that endorsed the deal will be terminated. Iran will then have a justifiable and legal nuclear program and will be free to conduct research on all types of centrifuges which can hastily enrich uranium. In JCPOA Iran was given few exemptions that it can get away with minor violations which the US would possibly ignore to defend the deal. All restrictions will be lifted after 15 years and then Iran will expand its industrialized nuclear program with almost zero breakout time, reprocessing and enrichment of Uranium and a licensed ballistic missile program. Throughout the deal’s duration, Iran can delay inspections for 24 days. This time is more than enough to obscure most violations. If Iran stonewalls incrementally, it will not trigger a major U.S. reaction. So, through strategic patience, Iran can emerge through multiple pathways to acquire nuclear weapons after 15 years. Iran has a powerful economy which is immunized in opposition to the pressure of sanctions, enlarged military capabilities making it the principal regional power (Cohen, 2015)
This deal will make significant changes in the regional politics and the role of major powers towards the Middle East. How will it shape Middle Eastern politics afterward is ambiguous and there are two camps of scholars in this regard with varying viewpoints and approaches.
The proponents believe that Iran would utilize the time in improving its economy and integrating into global economics by enhancing its cooperation with the world it remained away from during the period of economic sanctions. According to a report recently released by the CIA, Iran will use most of the released funds it receives from sanctions relief to bolster its economy and not to aid militant groups it supports. Iran needs to invest in domestic development and reinvigorate its economy. Iranian President Rouhani has promised to revive the economy by completing formerly halted development projects and bringing down the rate of inflation progress the Iranian people have been demanding.
Critics of the Iran deal like to exaggerate a number of blocked funds Iran will receive, claiming that Iran will receive up to $300 billion in sanctions relief. According to US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, that figure is more like $50 billion. Iran owes at least $20 billion to China in addition to tens of billions in non-performing (unpaid) loans and has around $500 billion worth of pressing domestic investment requirements and government obligations.
Richard Nephew, Program Director of Economic Statecraft, Sanctions and Energy Markets at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, suggested
“the issue of Iranian support for terrorism is not whether they have the financial resources to do it but rather whether they have the political will, opportunity, and foreign policy incentive… to do so. A nuclear deal will not change this.”
A strict framework has thus been designed to operationalize this but there are loopholes in that framework through which there is still risk that Iran can in future pose threat to the regional peace as after 15 years of this deal the effect would be expired and it can continue to pursue its nuclear ambitions.
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that was signed in order to diplomatically deal with the threat of weaponization intentions of Iran after the negotiation period of few years has become a significant move to determine the future of US foreign policy, Iran role in the Middle East and the entire political dynamics of Middle Eastern politics. It focuses on the inspection of declared fissile material and to keep a check on underlying activities related to the nuclear program through international supervision under IAEA. A strict framework has thus been designed to operationalize this but there are loopholes in that framework through which there is still risk that Iran can in future pose threat to the regional peace as after 15 years of this deal the effect would be expired and it can continue to pursue its nuclear ambitions.
Regardless of what specific restrictions are lifted, Iran is still prohibited from pursuing nuclear weapons. Any activity that is clearly not intended for “peaceful use” (i.e. highly enriching uranium) will raise red flags and trigger a response from the international community.
Jaweria Waheed is a graduate in International Relations from Kinnaird College. She is a member of the Editorial Board for the magazine ‘Voice of Students’ and has been a blogger with media organizations ARY News & Dunya News, Pakistan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.