US Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) UPSC
U.S. President Joe Biden is attempting to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal (signed between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers – the USA, UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany), on the condition that Iran starts complying with its terms. Tehran, on the other side, asks the U.S., which unilaterally quit the deal under the Donald Trump administration in May 2018, to return to the agreement first and lift sanctions on Iran.
- Biden has moved with a sense of urgency after assuming power. He appointed a special envoy for Iran, showed signs of rebalancing ties with Saudi Arabia, and sent clear signals to Tehran about America’s desire to get back to the deal. But these actions do not seem to be enough to rebuild the trust after the acrimonious Trump years.
- The EU’s efforts to organise direct U.S.-Iran talks were also unsuccessful as Tehran reportedly rejected the offer.
- Iran has also accelerated its nuclear programme.
- Iran will elect a new President in June. There is no guarantee that a moderate like Mr. Rouhani would be elected this time. And it is not a secret that there is considerable opposition among the hardliners, a powerful constituency, towards any kind of engagement with the U.S.
- Biden’s best bet is to get the nuclear agreement back on track before Mr. Rouhani leaves office.
Absence of consistency in U.S. policy towards Iran
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, Iran had cooperated with the U.S. in the war against the Taliban. But once the Taliban were driven out of power, the Bush administration branded Iran as part of an “Axis of Evil” along with Iraq and North Korea. As President Barack Obama offered diplomacy, the Iranians grabbed the opportunity, leading to the signing of the JCPOA in 2015. And Iran was fully compliant with the agreement when Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. out of it. So Iran would seek some consistency in U.S. policy.
Need of a diplomatic breakthrough
But Iran is also in a tough spot. Hit by sanctions and a devastating COVID-19 outbreak, its economy is bleeding. It had violently cracked down on protests in 2019-20, the embers of which are still burning. Its regional operations took a hit after Qasem Soleimani was assassinated by the U.S. in January 2020. Its assets in Syria are under repeated air strikes by Israel. Last week, the U.S. had also bombed pro-Iranian militants in Syria.
Both sides are under pressure. Both sides need the deal — the U.S. wants to scuttle Iran’s nuclear programme and Iran wants relief from sanctions. They should stick to the diplomatic path for a breakthrough.
Importance of Iran Nuclear deal UPSC
It is likely to defuse a mounting sense of crisis surrounding Iran’s nuclear activities.
The agreement allowed Iran to accumulate small amounts of uranium for research but it banned the enrichment of uranium, which is used to make reactor fuel and nuclear weapons.
- Iran must reduce its stockpile of uranium by 98%, and will keep its level of uranium enrichment at 3.67% — significantly below the enrichment level needed to create a bomb.
- There is also limitation on centrifuges. Iran also needs tens of thousands of centrifuges to create highly enriched uranium for a bomb. Right now, Iran has nearly 20,000 centrifuges between their Natanz and Fordow uranium enrichment facilities. But under this deal, Iran must reduce its centrifuges to 6,104 for the next ten years. No enrichment will be allowed at the Fordow facility at all.
However, the Iranian Parliament also passed a bill seeking to enrich the Uranium above 20%. A recent IAEA report has also confirmed that 20% enrichment had begun. If there is a collapse of the JCPOA, then Iran can turn into North Korea-like situation. It will have major repercussions in the region and beyond.
US Iran Nuclear Deal and its implications on India UPSC
India and Iran have strategic interests in keeping the relationship sustainable.
- Energy – Until 2010-11, Iran was India’s second-largest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia. It is now India’s third-largest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
- Chabahar port – Chabahar port is both a financial and a strategic investment for India.
- Stability in West Asia is a priority for India. Over 8 million Indian migrants live and work. Military tensions in West Asia have forced India to evacuate its nationals in the past.
- Iran situation will test the durability of the “strategic partnership” between India and US.
How to revive the (US Iran Nuclear Deal) JCPOA UPSC?
Multiple rounds of talks and confidence building steps are necessary for creating a conducive atmosphere.
- Iran can release the European and American nationals currently in custody in Iran.
- US can help to clear Iran’s applications to the International Monetary Fund. This will help Iran to recover from COVID-19 and aid the supply of vaccines under the international COVAX facility.
- Similarly, EU also needs to fast track deals worth a few million euros stuck in the INSTEX pipeline.
- The US on the other hand can remove sanctions on Iranian political leaders, it will bring Iran closer to talks.
The revival of JCPOA is essential considering the current political situations in Iran, to save Iran from turning into a North Korea-like situation.