In the past, President Biden has called for the re-entry into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. Here’s why that would be a bad idea.
In September of 2020, President Biden called for the re-entry into the Iran Nuclear Deal, criticised former president Trump for leaving “a deal that put the world’s eyes and ears inside Iran’s nuclear program and was verifiably blocking Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon.” Now, with Biden in office, Iran has been pushing for the U.S. to return to the original terms of the Nuclear Deal. Despite the political pressure, The Biden administration should be wary of reentering the Nuclear Deal.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action sought to accomplish four tasks. In exchange for lifting weapons embargoes and sanction relief, Iran agreed to extensive nuclear restrictions and consented to give officials from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) “unfettered access to its nuclear facilities and potentially to undeclared sites”.
In a tweet made by the Iran Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, claims that Iran has abided by the JCPOA terms faithfully, which is verifiably untrue. In January of 2018, five months before Trump pulled out of the agreement, Israeli Mossad agents uncovered a large stash of CD’s while operating in Iran. The data on the CDs, when decrypted and translated, revealed that Iran had been working on engineering a nuclear ballistic missile. The missile program was in strict violation of the original JCPOA agreement, which required that such a facility be monitored and fully accessible by the IAEA. JCPOA also prohibited the research and development of such armaments. The Iranian government stashed away the CDs in order to deceive the International Atomic Energy Agency and prevent the Agency from fulfilling their duty under the agreement.
Moreover, the Biden administration must understand and negotiate knowing that Iran is not the UK or the European Union. As pointed out by Amos Yadlin and Ebtesam Al-Ketbu in their article in Foreign Affairs, Ayatollah Khamenei is not interested in participating in diplomacy and the world economy in the same way as Western democracies are. Indeed, Khamenei is highly skeptical of the Western agenda in general, and in Karim Sadjadpour’s Carnegie Endowment report, quotes the Ayatollah as saying “In the present postmodern colonial era, the arrogant powers are trying to influence other nations with the help of their agents, by spending money and through propaganda tactics and colorful enticements”
With that said, the Ayatollah would be more than willing to return to the favorable status quo that reigned before Trump pulled out of the JCPOA, as it provided significantly reduced tariffs and lifted many trade embargoes placed upon the country. And with much of the world in recession due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Iranian government is eager to capitalize on this opportunity to increase the economic prospects of their country. But, it is important to consider how exactly this influx of new income would be put to use by the Iranian government.
Iran, labeled a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984, has had an extensive history of arming militant groups all across the globe. In 2019, a State Department report estimated that Iran was providing the well-known terrorist group Hezbollah with upwards of $700 million dollars in funding. In August of 2019, a Times of Israel article reported Iran was also paying another terrorist group, Hamas, $30 million a month or $360 million a year. Iran is giving $1.06 billion just to these terror groups alone. In reality, this is likely only a fraction of the money Iran is paying in support of terror.
Iran is not a neutral actor in the world, and the leadership of the country has no interest in participating in the fellowship of the nations that makes up the lifeblood of Western-style democracy. These are things that the Biden administration must consider as it ponders the question of reentering JCPOA.
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