Iran Backs Out of Nuclear Deal

The International Atomic Energy Agency
confirmed last Monday that Iran has
surpassed its stockpile limit for
low-enriched uranium, effectively breaching
the terms of the nuclear deal.

Iranian president Hasan Rouhani
announced the country’s intention to stop
complying with the terms of the JCPOA,
or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,
in early May, one year after the US
backed out of the agreement. Iranian
leaders explained that this was done in
response to the failure of other parties
to meet their end of the deal. Under the
terms of the agreement, Iran would reveal
any and all nuclear weapons research, halt
any development of nuclear weapons,
limit its nuclear capacities, and maintain
nuclear facilities exclusively for peaceful
purposes. In exchange, the other nations
would lift sanctions and improve the
economic situation in Iran. The Iranian
economy, however, has been in steady decline
ever since the US left the deal, and subsequently
reimposed sanctions on Iranian financial
institutions and banned all imports.
Although China and India continue
to buy Iranian oil, many smaller nations
have halted trade with Iran to maintain
economic ties with the US. As a result,
exports have been limited and the currency
has been devalued. The inadequacy of
economic protection from the other
members of the JCPOA led Iranian leaders to
conclude that there was little benefit in
complying with the deal.

Iran’s withdrawal from the deal has been
met with opposition, and the White House
has announced that “Maximum pressure
on the Iranian regime will continue until
its leaders alter their course of action.” If
the US is interested limiting Iran’s nuclear
potential, why did it back out? Many US
politicians, including President Trump,
felt that the deal was not strict enough to
adequately suppress what they considered
a threat to the US, and to US allies in the
Middle East, namely, Israel. The decision
was also infl uenced by an archive of over
100,000 Iranian nuclear weapons research
files seized by Isreali forces in a raid. The
documents, while predating the nuclear
deal, showed that Iran had dabbled in nuclear weapons development, despite Iranian leaders’ repeated insistence that such
an initiative never existed. There has been
debate as to whether or not Iran was abiding by the terms of the deal, despite the
IEAA reporting that Iran was compliant,
because the documents were proof that it
did not reveal all of its nuclear research.

The announcement that Iran had begun
to stockpile enriched uranium came during a period of tense relations between the
US and Iran. On June 13, two oil tankers — one Norwegian, one Japanese — exploded in the Gulf of Oman (near Oman,
Iran, and the UAE) following a suspected
attack. The US blamed Iran for the explosions, but its evidence was less than
conclusive. The US Navy announced that
recovered mine fragments from one of the
two exploded oil tankers bore a strong resemblance to those seen in Iranian military parades. US central command also
released video footage which allegedly
showed an Iranian military boat removing an unexploded mine from the wreck of one tanker after the blast. Iran denied
all involvement in the incident.

Less than a week later, on June 18, the
US conducted a cyberattack against Iranian military command and control systems. The severity of the damage remains
unknown, but similar attacks launched
against the IRA in Russia showed that
such tactics temporarily halted cyber capabilities but did not critically damage them.

On June 20, Iran’s military shot down
an unmanned US drone over the Strait of
Hormuz, claiming the drone was in Iranian airspace. The US claims the drone was
over international waters. The US President approved a military attack against
Iran, but quickly recalled it, claiming the
estimated loss of life was not appropriate
given that the drone was unmanned.

While tensions between the US and Iran
are high, leaders of both countries have
repeatedly announced that they do not
wish for war.