Tag: JCPoA

With ‘tyrant’ Trump’s exit and Biden bringing hopes of Obama-era return, are Iran’s nuclear facilities safe from attack?
Middle East & Africa

With ‘tyrant’ Trump’s exit and Biden bringing hopes of Obama-era return, are Iran’s nuclear facilities safe from attack?

With the exit of ‘tyrant’ Trump, as called by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Tehran is taking a big but careful sigh of relief. Rouhani has called on the incoming president of the United States of America, Joe Biden, to return to JCPOA, the 2015 nuclear deal formulated under former US President Barack Obama. 

In a televised cabinet meeting aired on Wednesday, Rouhani said, “the ball was in the US court now.” 

Rouhani added, “If Washington returns to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, we will also fully respect our commitments under the pact. A tyrant’s era came to an end and today is the final day of his ominous reign.”  

The outlook of Trump towards Tehran is no secret. Trump withdrew US from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on May 8, 2018. This was followed by series of sanctions slapped on Tehran, crippling it economically. In fact, many in the Gulf region anticipated that Donald Trump might act on his earlier plan of launching military strike on Iran’s nuclear plants, during the last days of his presidency. At one point in November, Trump was reportedly talked out by his advisers from launching a military strike on Iran to create “maximum pressure”

But incoming president Joe Biden has made his intensions of rejoining the nuclear deal pretty clear, provided Tehran assures of complete compliance and following of the deal pacts. This would mean reversal of sanctions and economic support to Tehran. 

But does this mean that now Iran’s nuclear facilities are safe from any attack? Definitely no! 

Iran is concerned over its ambitious plans of creating ballistic missiles arsenal as well as civilian nuclear activities. Israel, the hard-core enemy of the Islamic Republic, sees Iran’s nuclear programme a threat to its existence and has repeatedly urged global leaders to take action against Tehran. In response, Iran has maintained that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes. But its recent uranium enrichment boost has set up red flags. 

Iran is a tough target to track – geographically, accessibility, and strategic location of its nuclear plants. It is a high possibility that over the years Iran has made its underground nuclear facilities practically impenetrable. But experts suggest that its not impossible. 

An expert on arms control, and associate fellow at International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Mark Fitzpatrick says, “Iran’s facilities are not impregnable. The one at Natanz is vulnerable to precise bunker-busting bombing, maybe taking two precise hits: one to dig a crater and the other to burst through it or at least to shake the delicate machines enough to put them out of commission.”

Assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, godfather of Iran’s nuclear programme, by US, is enough to dent ego and development of its nuclear programme. Furthermore, Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has been active in Iran and has been carrying out operations to impact and neutralize its nuclear programme. 

As long as Iran is under suspicion of carrying out secret development of nuclear warheads, there will always be a possibility of it being under attack. 

EU urges Iran to reverse its decision on uranium enrichment
Middle East & Africa

EU urges Iran to reverse its decision on uranium enrichment

Uranium Enrichment: ran should reverse its decision to enrich uranium up to 20% if it wishes to save the 2015 atomic agreement, the EU said on Monday. EU showed concern about reports from the U.N. atomic watchdog that Iran had continued enriching uranium and it would keep attempting to recover the global atomic deals that limited such activities. 

Addressing columnists in Brussels, EU representative Peter Stano stated that Iran’s activities “will have genuine ramifications with regards to atomic restraint.” 

Iran as of late educated the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding its arrangements to expand enhancement to 20 percent, levels unheard of since the atomic arrangement was struck. Whereas, Under the current atomic deal, Iran is permitted to enrich up to 3.67% of uranium.

In 2018, President Trump declared that the United States was unilaterally pulling out from the JCPOA agreement and has reimposed many economic sanctions on Iran.

Critics state that this move by Iran on uranium enrichment might be an endeavor to give it influence in future dealings. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that the move was “completely reversible” if other accomplices in the deal went along as well, without explaining. 

The US President-elect Joe Biden has stated that he hopes to restore the nuclear deal, Borrell and other nations would welcome such a step. 

“At this difficult situation, Iran’s activity additionally risks subverting endeavors pointed toward expanding upon the current diplomatic means. We ask Iran to shun further acceleration and rethink this policy immediately,” Borrell stated in his assertion, delivered late Monday. 

Despite Iran’s breach of the nuclear deal, the IAEA has announced that Tehran proceeds with giving auditors full access to its atomic sites — an important reason the signatories suppose it is worth preserving.

UN watchdog notifies Iran’s intentions of enriching Uranium to 20% purity
Middle East & Africa

UN watchdog notifies Iran’s intentions of enriching Uranium to 20% purity

Enriching Uranium: United Nations nuclear watchdog has informed of Iran’s admission of its intentions to enrich uranium to 20% purity. The agency shared that this level was achieved by Tehran before the 2015 accord at Fordow nuclear site buried inside a mountain. 

The move is one of the many revelations by Iran recently to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This level, though a direct violation of the nuclear deal, is still 90% short of requirement of a nuclear weapon. Tehran had started violating the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) in 2019 as direct retaliation to Washington’s exit from the deal under Trump’s presidency. This was along with imposition of sanctions that angered Iran leading to breach the agreement. 

IAEA said in a statement, “Iran has informed the agency that in order to comply with a legal act recently passed by the country’s parliament, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran intends to produce low-enriched uranium up to 20% at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.”

Iran, however, hasn’t informed of the time when the said enrichment activity would take place, but only the location. The Fordow site was built inside mountain to ensure it is protected from aerial bombardment. As per the 2015 deal, uranium enrichment isn’t allowed at this site. But in violation of the deal, Tehran is already carrying out enrichment activity at Fordow using first generation IR-1 centrifuges. 

Iran has already breached the deal’s allowed uranium purity limit of 3.67%, and has gone up to 4.5% till now. This is well short of the 20% that it had achieved before the 2015 nuclear deal and the 90% which is required for nuclear weapon. 

Enriched uranium is generated by feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into centrifuges in order to separate U-235, the most suitable isotope for nuclear fission. Low enriched uranium has 3-5% concentration of U-235 and can be used to produce fuel for commercial nuclear power plants. High enriched uranium has 20% or more concentration and is typically used in research reactors. 90% or more concentration is required for weapons-grade uranium.

May 2018 saw US exit the JCPOA with President Donald Trump calling the agreement as “decaying and rotten”. But President-elect Joe Biden has plans of bringing US back into the agreement that was formed under former President Barack Obama. Mr. Biden has also said that sanctions would be lifted if Tehran pledges to “return to strict compliance with the nuclear deal.” 

Iranian scientist’s assassination and challenges for incoming Biden administration: a tale around Iran’s nuclear programme
Middle East & Africa

Iranian scientist’s assassination and challenges for incoming Biden administration: a tale around Iran’s nuclear programme

Iranian scientist’s assassination: Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran’s top nuclear scientist was assassinated on November 27 in broad daylight. Iran has blamed Israel of carrying out the “state sponsored act of terrorism”. If Israel has, in most likelihood, carried out this assassination on Iranian scientist, it definitely is to undermine the highly possible rapid relations recovery through cooperation between US and Iran as Joe Biden takes office as President of United States on January 20, 2021. This is a positive turn of events in favor of Israel’s Netanyahu and Trump who want to make circumstances as sour between US and Iran to hamper Biden administration’s attempts to resume negotiations and return to the 2015 nuclear deal, JCPoA. 

US had assassinated most powerful and influential leader of Iran, Qassem Suleimani, in a drone strike outside Baghdad airport in January. This was a sheer publication of Iran’s weak security network and the fact that Iranian regime was unable to follow back with a hard-lined response reflected poorly on the leadership internationally. Iran carried out 5 missile attacks on US bases in Iraq in response to Trump’s boasting of Suleimani killing, but in only a symbolic way. Iran failed to hurt US back in equal proportions. This didn’t sit well with the conservative Iranian leaders.  

The audacious killing of Iran nuclear programme’s backbone, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, has served as a double edged sword. Apart from making situation tough for Biden, the assassination has also split wise open the already present rift between Iran’s factions – between conservative politicians and hardline factions who are allied with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the reformist group led by president, Hassan Rouhani. 

Conservative leaders had called out for a strong response as the only way to dissuade any future attacks. Hossein Salami, the top commander of the Revolutionary Guards, vowed speaking at Fakhrizadeh’s funeral, “Enemies should be awaiting our revenge.” Such open denunciations are a not a rarity in Iran. But this time the conservative and hardline factions of the country are signaling the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of taking some action. He is the one with final say on Iran’s nuclear programme and foreign policy. The situation, as is turning out for Iran is, if they wait out for Trump to exit to take any strong action, and resume talks with Biden, they fear they will be projected as a weaker link in partnership. The recent attacks have exposed Iran’s vulnerability. 

With Iran’s presidential elections due for June 2021, Biden’s administration will have just a few months to reach an agreement to rejoin JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) in exchange of revoking sanctions imposed on Tehran. 

Though Rouhani and his close aids including foreign minister Javad Zarif see Biden as more predictable and approachable than Trump, the conditions on restarting negotiations is a tough nut to crack for Iranian regime. US has extended conditions for its rejoining the 2015 JCPoA nuclear deal and lifting sanctions on Iran. Iran must commit to negotiate on various issues like its ballistic missile programme and supporting militia in the region. These issues may be even non-acceptable to moderates in Iran. 

The amalgamation of these issues raised over to the cliff edge by Israel and Trump administration will pose challenges to Joe Biden and his administration early on in the presidency who is looking to bring back JCPoA to its initial stance as was in the time of former President Barack Obama who brough in the nuclear deal. 

Iran rejects Biden’s bid to comply with pre-conditioned nuclear deal, demands lifting sanctions first
Middle East & Africa

Iran rejects Biden’s bid to comply with pre-conditioned nuclear deal, demands lifting sanctions first

Iran rejects Biden’s bid: Iran has rejected incoming Biden administration’s pre-conditioned nuclear deal and has said of complete compliance with the deal only after United States lifts all the sanctions imposed on it. Iran’s foreign minister also said that first step towards consensual talks is US to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal. 

Javed Zarif, Iran foreign minister, has laid out new parameters to embark on new relationship with Washington. He said that before US rejoins the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) and lifts the sanctions imposed on it by Trump administration, Tehran would need some kind of guarantee that it would leave the deal again like predecessor Donald Trump. Zarif also hinted at no clause of renegotiating the existing deal. It is to be noted that many clauses of the deal are set to expire in 2025. 

While speaking at the Roma Med 2020 Conference via video link, Zarif said, “The us must implement without preconditions its obligations under the JCPoA. It has to show its good faith, it has to establish its bona fides, then Iran will go back in full compliance with JCPoA.”

On Tuesday, the Iranian Parliament passed a controversial resolution that would require Iran to step up its Uranium enrichment procedures and also end the UN inspection programme by February next year if US fails to lift the sanctions imposed on Tehran. Zarif expressed the dislikes of government on this resolution but also said of government’s obligation to abide by all the passed legislatures who are converted to laws. He said that the passed resolution is “not irreversible” and would only dwindle if US lifts sanctions, thus allowing Iran to completely comply with the deal. 

The major roadblock in the whole arrangement is that Iran does not want to “re-negotiate” the duration and clause of the JCPoA which had already been negotiated to restricts of 10 years plus a few more. Zarif said in relation to missiles and talks on regional issues, the topics on which US wants to engage, talks will be held between Iran and its neighbours, but this would require US to withdraw its support from Saudi Arabia. 

In May 2018, President Donald Trump had exited from the 2015 nuclear deal, which was a result of negotiations with former president Barack Obama. After this his administration imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran targeting to cripple its oil and economic sectors. Since then Tehran has daringly exceeded the set limits of nuclear activities as per the deal. This has raised suspicions in the international communities of Iran going back to its old agenda of developing a nuclear bomb. The Iranian government however, argues that the purposes of increased uranium enrichment activities are for peaceful nuclear ambitions.  

Iran admits breach of 2015 nuclear deal post IAEA inspection
Middle East & Africa

Iran admits breach of 2015 nuclear deal post IAEA inspection

Iran admits breach of 2015 nuclear deal: The recent UN nuclear weapons inspectorate found out that Iran had recently fired up its uranium enrichment centrifuges which are very advanced version, and installed underground in Natanz underground nuclear plant. The finding was confirmed and admitted by Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), the UN nuclear weapons inspectorate. 

According to the 2015 nuclear deal which was struck under former US President Barack Obama, the Islamic Republic of Iran is only allowed to use first generation IR-1 machines for accumulating enriched uranium in its underground plants. But the nation has been repeatedly breaching the deal, and as per the latest findings by IAEA, Tehran has been supplying Uranium Hexaflouride (UF6) to the advanced IR-2m machines. 

IAEA’s previous report had said of Iran installing the IR-2m machines in its underground plants. This report was made on November 2, before Joe Biden was elected the next President of United States but the latest report, dated Tuesday, has been post Biden’s victory. The latest report by IAEA states, “On 14 November 2020, the Agency verified that Iran began feeding UF6 into the recently installed cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Natanz.” 

Last week President Donald Trump has been reported to contemplating, but later rejecting a military strike on Natanz, the Iranian city lying south of capital Tehran, and the Islamic Republic’s main uranium enrichment site. But latest provocative moves by Iran can potentially change his and Israel’s risk calculation and modus operandi. It is to be noted that the development comes before President-elect Joe Biden officially enters the White House, who is committed to re-enter the nuclear deal that Trump had exited from. 

Iran has been consistently breaching the nuclear deal and the agreements made. Keeping that in mind, the US decision to exit from deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) seems a logical and natural step. Trump’s administration has in this line of action imposed various sanctions on Iran and also threatened of actions against European nations which engage with Iran for trade. 

Iran currently possesses over 1000 IR-2m machines, of which it is only using 174. Under the nuclear deal, Iran is allowed to use 6000 IR-1 machines. Tehran could have a good argument point over use of the machines if it uses low number of IR-2ms, as trying to restore what it had above ground before it exploded in Natanz facility on July 2.  

IAEA said last week that Tehran’s explanations were unsatisfactory regarding the nuclear program related particles were found at sites where there was no business of it to be present. 

Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, said on Tuesday that Iran will clarify its position with Biden administration. He said, “If the US implements its commitments under the UN security council resolution 2231, we will implement our commitments under the JCPoA. This can be done automatically and needs no negotiations. But if the US wants to rejoin the JCPoA then we will be ready to negotiate how the US can re-enter the deal.”

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