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Iran abandons the 2015 nuclear deal

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    14th Jan, 2020

Iran has announced that it would no longer abide by any restrictions on its nuclear program, just days after the United States killed a top Iranian military commander in an airstrike in Baghdad.

Issue

Context

Iran has announced that it would no longer abide by any restrictions on its nuclear program, just days after the United States killed a top Iranian military commander in an airstrike in Baghdad.

Background:

  • The deal officially called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) commonly known as the Iran deal was signed on July 14, 2015.
  • It was signed between Iran, the U.S., China, France, Russia, the U.K., Germany, and the European Union.
  • P5 is the 5 permanent members of the UNSC (US, China, France, Russia, and the UK).
  • In May 2018, the United States President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the treaty, calling it “a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” and imposed punitive new sanctions as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign.
  • The other signatories — Europe in particular, but also Russia and China — tried hard to preserve the agreement.
  • And Iran initially said it would adhere to its treaty obligations.
  • But Tehran has since taken a series of stepsaway from the treaty, and analysts fear that it may now renounce all of its obligations.

Analysis

About the Deal:

  • Iran’s nuclear deal came after years of tension over Iran’s alleged efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.
  • Though Iran had always insisted that its nuclear programme was entirely peaceful, but the international community did not believe Iran.
  • Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.
  • Key-Points: The deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear programme
    • Iran agreed not to build any more heavy water facilities.
    • Eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium.
    • Cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, and reduce the number of its gas centrifuges.
    • In return, Iran will recover assets worth $100 billion frozen in overseas banks, and sanctions on the country by the U.S., the U.N., and the E.U. will be lifted.

What was the controversy behind the Deal?

  • The deal failed to address Iran's missile program or its contribution to discord in the Middle East.
  • While that nuclear deal was built to curb Iran's nuclear weapons capacity, it was not created to destroy Iran's missile capabilities.
  • Not only this, Iran also supported terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas in the Middle East and continues to back the Syrian President Bashar Assad. 
  • Iran provided weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen, which puts the US in a particularly delicate position given the rebels' attacks on Saudi Arabia (an ally to the US).

The current issue:

  • The current announcement came as fallout from the killing of Soleimani, one of Iran's most powerful military and political figures, stoked growing tensions in the Middle East.
  • The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said that from now on, “Iran’s nuclear program no longer faces any operating restrictions,” including how many kilograms of uranium it can enrich and how much it can enrich it.
    • Low-enriched uranium is suitable for powering nuclear reactors; highly enriched uranium is needed to make a bomb.
  • Iran is throwing off any limits on the number of centrifuges that it can operate; under the terms of the 2015 agreement.
  • It was limited to a little over 5,000 first-generation centrifuges, which constrained its ability to enrich uranium to the levels needed to build a bomb.
  • Now, Iran can install more of the older and less-efficient centrifuges (it has plenty) as well as arrays of more advanced, and more efficient, centrifuges that can enrich more uranium more quickly.
  • That’s important because the quicker Iran can enrich uranium, the quicker it can build a big stockpile of the stuff and proceed to further enrich it.
  • Previously, Iran had eschewed limits, the latest step creates the potential of a more robust enrichment program that would be necessary to turn a ton or so of low-enriched uranium into about 25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, the minimum needed for an atomic weapon.

Significance of Iran for India:

For India, Iran is beneficial in many directions such as-

  • Chabahar port: From Indian perspective, Chabahar port is vital to building up of strategic close relationship with Iran and Central Asia. This would entirely bypass Pakistan, which would help India to directly compete with China’s growing influence in the region.
  • Geopolitical: Iran is a gateway to Central Asia and the region is going to be the scene of renewed great power rivalry.
  • Energy: Iran oil is comparatively cheap and can decrease the dependence on Saudi for oil.
  • Role in Afghanistan: India is constructing a 560-mile long railway line linking the Iranian port with the iron ore mines in Hajigak in southern Afghanistan. The project will potentially afford India some strategic benefits especially increasing India’s position and leverage in Afghanistan and the central Asian region.

Implications for India:

  • Risk to Chabahar port agreement: In 2016, India and Afghanistan had signed a transit agreement on Chabahar port, to enhance trade with Afghanistan without Pakistan’s role. Now, US sanctions could slow the plans or even can bring the plans to a halt.
  • Inflation: Iran is India’s third biggest supplier of crude oil, and any increase in prices will hit both inflation level and the rupee.
  • SCO membership: India has joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and China is planning to induct Iran in the organization to bring the nation closer for investment purpose. If Iran enters into the group, it will create the image of the SCO as an anti-American block, which will affect India’s image for US.
  • US-India ties: Though US’s withdrawal is not a huge problem for India, but it can create complications that will require it to expend time and resources that are already in short supply. It can also add another difficult item to the US-India agenda.
  • Global uncertainty: The move will reinforce concerns about US reliability and it will have broader implications for the Middle East, which is a critical region for India. Moreover, it will create more space for China in Iran and the region more broadly. The decision will add to the global uncertainty that will affect India’s geopolitical, economic, and political options.

Both Iran and the United States are strategically and economically significant for India and India wants to have good relations with both the countries. No doubt, the US is an indispensable partner for India, in the context of new threats and challenges emerging in Asia. However, in the present situation, the US should understand that like any other bilateral relationship, there will be differences between itself and India on various issues, especially on the Iran issue. India should not be made to choose between the US and Iran.

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