The US and Iran had been sharing deteriorating strategic relations since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. However, considering Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to contain it, the US shifted its’ policy of sanctioning Iran and signed a deal widely known as Iran Nuclear Deal of 2015. This was a long-term deal between P5+1 (Russia, China, US, UK, France, plus Germany) and Iran.
Under the accord, the US gradually would lift the sanction regime against Iran in return to what Iran agreed to limit sensitive nuclear activities and show complete compliance by allowing international inspectors to the designated Iran’s nuclear sites. According to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran’s nuclear stockpiles will be reduced by 98% to 300kg for 15 years until 2031 and keep stockpile of enriched Uranium at 3.67%. In return to that Iran will gets foreign assets $100billion as well as selling oil on international markets and trade.
After some time President Trump pointed out that the deal as ‘defective at its core’ and abandoned it in 2018. This recommences the US sanctions regime against Iran. Calling it as maximum pressure on Iran to renegotiate the deal, the US want not only to restrict Iran’s nuclear program but also stopping of missile defense system and containment of its involvement in regional conflicts.
However, Iran refused to renegotiate. In 2019, Iran faced a tight sanction regime. This provides leverage to Iran to restart collecting enriched uranium stockpiles. IAEA already is blaming Iran for stockpiling of enriched uranium, more than those are allowed in the JCPOA. Also, access which was previously granted to IAEA inspectors again restricted.
Biden administration stimulating the negotiations and called it as return to 2015 accord however US urged that it depends on government in Tehran. Reviving negotiation and restoring a deal between Iran and the US will help both parties to overcome their difficulties that are dismantling of nuclear production by Iran in return for sanction relief. The time limit of gradual reduction of the stockpiles remains same which is 2030.
The US officials are considering the negotiations now at the stage of decision-making and marked as depends on the decision of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The restoration means the new negotiation would not limit Iran’s missile development and any involvement in regional conflicts. Besides US ambitions to discuss missile program and other issues, Iranian official rejected any relevant idea and stick to the 2015 deal.
Iranian officials are also saying the negotiations would be reaching the end result. IAEA officials already show serious concern over the enrichment capacity of Iranian nuclear stockpiles when there is significant intensification happened since 2020. Raisi government is facing uncertainty in internal affairs, what will happen if unable to lift sanctions even after the 97% stockpiles are shipped out?
Similarly, the Biden administration is also facing the uncertainty that how will the new leadership consider the old arrangements of the Iran Nuclear deal as Iran is already indulging in economic pressure which can be led to considering new terms of negotiations. However, both are interested in reviving the famous Nuclear Deal, 2015.
The writer is a visiting fellow at the Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Chakwal, Chakwal. He has M.Phil. in Strategic and Nuclear Studies from NDU, Islamabad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.