August 12, 2020

On the JCPOA’s 5th anniversary, Iran’s Embassy in The Hague explains Tehran’s stance

His Excellency, Dr. Alireza Kazemi Abadi, Ambassador of Iran.Photography by Catherine Dailey.

By Guido Lanfranchi.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, has faced major hurdles since the United States withdrew from it in May 2018. Five years after the deal’s signature, the Iranian Embassy in The Hague explains how the US withdrawal has affected its implementation, and how the international community should address the issue of the UN arms embargo on Iran.

It was July 14th, 2015, when Iran and the so-called “P5+1” – the five UN Security Council powers (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States) plus Germany – signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a deal aimed at ensuring the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, as well as Tehran’s rapprochement with the international community after years of sanctions. 

Five years later, the Iran Nuclear Deal is facing enormous challenges, notably in the wake of the withdrawal of the United States in May 2018. On the fifth anniversary of the deal’s signature, the Iranian Embassy in The Hague has sought to explain its view of the major developments related to the deal, through a note prepared by the Embassy’s political section.

The note unequivocally condemns the decision of US President Donald Trump to withdraw from the deal – a multilateral agreement that have been endorsed by the UN Security Council through Resolution 2231 (2015).

Besides classifying the withdrawal as outright “unlawful”, the note stresses how even US allies have condemned the US decision – citing for instance Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who in May 2018 described the US action as “bullish”.

In particular, Iranian diplomats take issue with the US decision to re-impose sanctions against Tehran, and to force other countries to do the same through the use of secondary sanctions. As a result of these coercive measures – the note goes – “Iranians’ access to essential medicine is being negatively impacted and showed how immoral, inhumane, and illegitimate these sanctions are”. While the US administration says that food and medicines are exempted from the sanctions, Iran maintains that these measures still make companies wary to do business with Tehran at all, thus impeding the transfer of non-sanctioned goods too. 

The note also describes the Iranian response to the US withdrawal. “Verified by numerous reports of the IAEA, Iran remained fully compliant with the JCPOA for an entire year after US withdrawal, waiting for the co-signatories to honour their commitments”. Yet, Tehran says that the European signatories to the deal have been “unable to compensate Iran for the US withdrawal” and, as a result, “Iran has used remedies of paragraph 36 of the deal which allows reducing its commitments because other signatories are not complying”. Yet – the note says, echoing the words of high-level Iranian representatives – Iran stands ready to reverse these steps, if the US sanctions were lifted. 

Finally, the note touches upon the thorny issue of the UN arms embargo on Iran, which is currently surfacing on the agenda of the UN Security Council. While according to Resolution 2231 the embargo could expire in October 2020, the US has recently been pushing for its extension. Besides accusing the US administration of levying “groundless accusations” against Iran, the note stresses that the US withdrawal from the JCPOA means that Washington “cannot currently use its former membership of the deal to seek a permanent arms embargo on Tehran”.

For Iran, the JCPOA, Resolution 2231, and the timetable for the removal of the arms restrictions are part of an inseparable package. If the US will prevent the lifting of the arms embargo on Tehran, then, “Iran will show an appropriate reaction”.

“Except the US and a handful of other countries, the international community wants the JCPOA and Resolution 2231 to be implemented” – the note concludes, highlighting that in the Security Council meeting of June 30th, 2020, 14 out of 15 Council members (all but the US) showed their strong support for the deal’s implementation. Iran’s position is thus clear. “As President Rohani said, Tehran is ready to immediately return to its full commitments under the JCPOA any day and time the other side does so”.  At the same time, however, “Iran will also take the necessary and proportional measures in response to any excessive demands and irresponsible behaviours”. 

About the author:

Guido Lanfranchi is a student and young professional in the field of international affairs. He has pursued his studies both at Leiden University and Sciences Po Paris, where he is currently enrolled. In parallel, he has been gaining professional experience through internships (first at the Council of the European Union, and currently at Clingendael Institute), as well as by working as reporter and associate editor for Diplomat Magazine The Netherlands. His research and work focus on the Middle East and Africa, and especially on conflict situations in these regions.

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