Per usual, Iran is making a nuisance of itself.
It announced last week that it will be ignoring the restraints on nuclear research and uranium enrichment set out in the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). And once again, tensions between Iran and the West rise.
In May 2018, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the JCPOA, reimposed sanctions, and left the JCPOA’s other signatories — E.U., U.K., China, and Russia — to deal with a grumpy, economically-injured Iran.
When it fell into a severe recession, Iran issued a deadline to the Europeans telling them to ease its economic troubles, or else the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization would start breaking JCPOA stipulations. The European countries did not give the Iranians what they wanted, hence the announcement from Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization last week that it would be pushing past the limits of the JCPOA.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said that this was Iran’s response not just to the Europeans unwillingness to cushion its financial difficulties, but also to the U.S. for pulling out of the JCPOA in 2018 and putting Iran in its present difficulties with reimposed sanctions.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said that along with boosting the nuclear research, the Islamic Republic is planning to start enriching uranium again to add to their uranium stockpile. And he added that in the next few weeks, there will be a large increase in the size of that stockpile.
“As long as the other side do not fulfill their commitments, we should not be expected to do so either. Our stockpile will go high from now on,” Kamalvandi said.
The steps Iran has taken thus far in ignoring the JCPOA is all just a game of pressuring the U.S. and Europe enough to maybe get negotiation talks started, but not closing off diplomacy.
Iran is the toddler waving his finger dangerously close to his sister but not really poking her. It’s aggravating and concerning, but not worth a slap on the wrist just yet. Instead, the U.S. and European nations will do what they always think will solve problems: they will try to renegotiate.
So far, the Europeans have been particularly useless in dealing with Iran and it appears they were waiting for the U.S. to get back in the game with new nuclear negotiations. They avoided any steps that would cause the JCPOA’s collapse, pleaded with Iran to stop breaking rules, and implored the U.S. to rejoin the JCPOA and lift sanctions.
They made a feeble attempt at being the middleman, keeping the JCPOA from falling apart, while also disapprovingly shaking their heads at Iran.
“This third step away from its commitments under the nuclear deal is particularly disappointing at a time when we and our European and international partners are working hard to de-escalate tensions with Iran,” the U.K. foreign office said.
The stage for negotiations will likely be the U.N. General Assembly, which will open Sept. 17. Trump has already said that he might meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Iran will keep insisting on sanctions relief before any meeting, but the Trump administration has already indicated that the only sanctions relief Iran will get will be after they come back to the negotiating table.
The U.S. pulled out of the JCPOA but still wants a nuclear deal with Iran, and has now found the chance to negotiate a new one. For some nonsensical reason, Washington still believes that negotiations could fix the problem.
Granted, the 2015 JCPOA was a terrible agreement. It was naturally weak since it attempted to both appease and limit Iran by lifting sanctions and also hinder its nuclear program.
But no one can expect Iran to stick to a new agreement, whatever the stipulations may be. Iran doesn’t like the West and has been in tension with the U.S. since the birth of its Islamic Republic in 1979. Negotiations or even a new agreement is not going to change the nature of the Islamic Republic or lessen tensions. Iran is diametrically opposed to the U.S. and its involvement in the region, as is evident in so many areas. Anywhere that the U.S. is even mildly involved in the Middle East, Iran puts itself on the opposing side. Just look at the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and the contention in the Straits of Hormuz. It’s always Iran verse the U.S.
If the European nations want to stay in an agreement with Iran, let them. But the U.S. shouldn’t be too eager to strike a new deal. And if it does strike a deal, it certainly shouldn’t expect different results or a change in Iran’s behavior.