The Death of the JCPOA: Worsening Relations with Iran

  • February 12, 2021
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The Death of the JCPOA: Worsening Relations with Iran – Democratic Article

Any chance of reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has now been lost. Despite campaigning on the promise of returning to the JCPOA, Biden has decided to keep up the policy of maximum pressure on Iran, until they come to the negotiating table. To me, this sounds like a continuation of Trump’s policy on Iran, and it leaves a lot to be desired.

During the Trump years of maximum pressure, Trump often said that Iran will come back for a new deal. He emphasised it would be a better one than Obama got. Only then will sanctions be dropped.  Despite criticising the Trump policy, Biden announced recently that these same terms will still apply. This is despite the fact that Iran has repeatedly stated that it will only return to the deal if sanctions are dropped.

Sanctions on Iran have crippled its economy. Its GDP has crumbled; the Iranian Rial’s value has collapsed resulting in inflation; oil exports have crashed, and the cost of basic living goods has skyrocketed. However, Iran’s economic state has neither curbed its nuclear program nor has its activities outside its border in states like Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria.

In certain US policy circles, some would no doubt think that these conditions would create the demand for regime change, and thus inspire protest. While there has been some protest, it has been insignificant. The sanctions have also done the opposite in some places. The economic conditions that the average Iranian faces makes them more reliant on the state, in turn, making it in their interest that their state survives. Sanctions have deepened the regime’s control.

Others will believe Biden’s strategy will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In a true dictatorial fashion, Iran is still prioritising destructive action abroad and the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The nuclear plant at Fordo has been reopened, and uranium enrichment is now at 20%. This is far below the 90% required for a bomb, however, is far higher than the 3.67% the deal permits. Furthermore, Iran’s stockpile of uranium has grown substantially. It is now at over 2,400kg; twelve times what the deal permits. No doubt these figures will only increase.

Biden’s moves do not alleviate the pressure the Iranian people are facing, nor do they encourage Iran back to the negotiating table.

The policy of maximum pressure also has consequences on Iranian politics. This can be seen by the empowering of hardliners that are loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Al Khamenei and who are extremely anti-Western. These hardliners are finding increasing success. In the Iranian parliamentary elections last February, the hardliners won every seat available. This is an obvious repudiation of the moderates who are more pro-western. The benefits of their position were crushed under Trump’s sanctions.

Biden is set to repeat this mistake. Iranian Presidential elections are in June. Current President Hassan Rouhani’s position is vulnerable to these hardliners. Biden could have helped to save the reformist president (in the international context), by reversing Trump sanctions and reopening negotiations. However, this is unlikely.

Because of this, the hardliners will have an easier task of winning. It will not be hard for them to prove the failings of the pro-Western position, even under a new American administration. Biden’s actions don’t do anything to lower the power of these hardliners. A return to a deal and the lifting of sanctions could put a more, western-facing president in power.

Biden keeping sanctions on Iran will ensure they will get nuclear weapons. This will threaten not only the Middle East but also the rest of the world. He claimed that he would protect Saudi Arabia, but by allowing their enemy to get nuclear weapons he fails on that promise. In order to course-correct relations with Iran, Biden must eat humble pie for Trump’s sanctions and withdraw them.

While I am not a fan of trusting Iran to follow their word, sanctions can be easily reapplied should Iran prove untrustworthy. In fact, if they do not keep to their word, it would expose them for what it is thought they are. The EU and UK should then apply sanctions too if this is the case.

I am not advocating for a return to the JCPOA as normal. The date to which the deal ends, which is currently 2030, must be extended. The JCPOA should also be used as a basis to expand on areas such as reducing ballistic missiles, and curbing Iran’s action elsewhere.

One of Biden’s campaign policies was ‘I am not Donald Trump’. However, his approach to Iran mirrors Trump’s. Biden says ‘Diplomacy is back’. He needs to prove it with proactive diplomatic actions, instead of expecting Iran to come to him. Iran has a strong negotiating position and the US do not.

Biden’s statement is truly disappointing. The JCPOA will die, and there will be another, dangerous nuclear power in the world.

Written by Democratic Writer, Kieran Burt

Point of Information

Iran is a Rogue State and Should Be Treated as Such – A Republican Response

Kieran makes a series of good points in this article regarding the rapidly worsening relations between Iran and the US.  I am also inclined to agree with the main statement of the article; American foreign policy regarding Iran under Biden should not be a continuation of Trump’s. That being said, there are several aspects of the matter on which I have a different view.

Rogue states like Iran should be subjected to a much more active and targeted foreign policy. Sanctions have pushed Iran’s leaders and people into a corner, and they are likelier to bite now than ever. The unwillingness of Biden to rejoin the JCPOA is a logical response to a nation that’s grown increasingly hostile towards Western interests and global security.

A voluntary compromise in which both parties are satisfied seems unlikely. Iran is unwilling to make the necessary concessions. To say that “Biden keeping sanctions on Iran will ensure they will get nuclear weapons” is a bold statement, but there is truth to it. It insinuates that the current approach of crippling sanctions is not producing the desired results. However, the assumption that removing sanctions and seeking compromise through the JCPOA is based on an unrealistic ideal.

For the rest, I really must agree with the core message Kieran is putting forth here. It’s instrumental in troubling times that the necessary steps be taken to ensure a dangerous state is neutralized. The method for doing so, however, leaves much to be debated. ​

Written by Republican Writer, Sebastian Bossu

Biden needs to prove ‘diplomacy is back’ – A Foreign Perspective

Now, I thought Trump was out of the White House. But it seems like Biden is steering towards a continuation of Trump’s foreign policy stance on Iran. If Biden truly wants diplomacy back then the negotiation channels need to be reopened. Sanction after sanction will not solve a diplomatic and nuclear crisis. It will only exacerbate and worsen the situation.

The JCPOA must be amended and extended, as Kieran has stated in his article. Biden must work with his friends and partners, whether that be NATO members or G7 members, to apply equal pressure on Iran. Scrapping his JCPOA promises is counterproductive as continuing to maximise pressure will only anger Iran and heighten tension with the USA. A result of this will be that it is even more difficult to get back to the negotiations table.

This move might please the Republicans but this will surely cause distress amongst the Democrats, especially when they supported Biden’s policies through his presidential election campaign. Biden must be extremely careful otherwise further tensions will only flare-up. I am very surprised he has done this and if he seriously thinks “diplomacy is back” then he must get back to negotiating. Negotiating is the essence of diplomacy.

Written by Foreign Perspective Writer, Max Jablonowski

Kieran Burt
Conservative writer at | Website

Hello, my name is Kieran Burt and I am going into second year at Nottingham Trent University studying Politics and International Relations. I first developed an interest in politics through reading the Dictator’s Handbook by Alastair Smith and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, when I was 16, and have furthered my interest by studying politics at A level and now at university.

Sebastian Bossu
Max Jablonowski
Max Jablonowski
Conservative Writer at | Website

I am Max Jablonowski, a second year student studying French and Politics at the University of Exeter, and I am about to go on my year abroad to Paris to complete two internships. I was Academic Events Manager of the Politics Society in Exeter and I was privileged enough to organize events such as Question Time, co-host the 2019 General Election Hustings with MWEXE and host the Rt. Hon. James Brokenshire MP, the current Minister of State for Security.

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