Iran Deal : How things changed? – UPSC GS2

  • The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed between Iran and P5+1 nations.
  • Under the deal:
    • Iran agreed to reduce its number of centrifuges – tube-shaped machines that help enrich uranium – by two-thirds.
    • Iran agreed to bring down its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98% and limit uranium enrichment to 3.67%.
    • Iran consented to give access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency, to its nuclear facilities, among other facilities.
  • In exchange, Iran would have the sanctions lifted.
The change of guard in the US has brought into focus the nature of policy that will pursued with regards to Iran.
  1. Barack Obama’s conciliatory policy
    • The Obama administration saw Iran as a threat to not only US interests in the region but also to global peace.
    • Hence, the US under Barack Obama wanted to make Iran responsible for its actions, putting Iran under severe sanctions would only give them an opportunity to be more reckless in their conduct.
    • The US saw the only way to make Iran accountable for its actions is to bring them to the negotiating table and arrange an agreement and also pin accountability on them if they renege on such an agreement.
    • The agreement would mean that Iran would have to phase down its nuclear programme and the US will have to lift sanctions imposed on Iran.
  2. West Asia triangle
    • Israel, Saudi Arabia along with Iran constitute the three poles of West Asia, the balance of power dynamics in the region is largely controlled by these three actors
    • The US attempts to strike a deal with Iran over its nuclear programme did not go down well with its allies in the region, namely, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
    • Israel and Saudi Arabia were of the opinion that the agreement would lift the stature of Iran in the region, something that Israel and Saudi Arabia couldn’t live with, for Israel and Saudi Arabia gained a lot by terming Iran as a ‘rogue nation’, ‘irresponsible actor’ and ‘mischief monger’.
    • The lifting of sanctions would also enable Iran to regain its natural economic and political might and widen Iran’s influence in the region.
    • Iran’s resurgence doesn’t bode well for the other two, its backing of non-state militias and the ambition to emerge as a hegemon in the region based on the political heft of the Shia community.
    • Thus Israel and Saudi Arabia made their displeasure with respect to the agreement from the beginning.
  3. ‘Maximum pressure’ policy
    • 2016 saw the coming of Donald Trump to the white house as the new President of the US. His policy was the polar opposite of what the previous administration had worked towards.
    • Donald Trump was very vocal in his criticism of the Iranian regime, singled out Iran for numerous incidents in the Middle-east. Donald Trump went as far as pulling out of JCPAO and imposed strict sanctions on Iran.
    • The US pullout came even after the United Nations acknowledging that Iran was compliant with the terms of the agreement. Thus pulling out of the JCPOA and re-imposing severe sanctions meant that Iran was backed into a corner
    • He termed his policy as ‘Maximum Pressure’, he was hoping that the US and its allies would pressurize Iran to return to the negotiating table and it would be a perfect opportunity for the US to dictate terms to Iran, this was welcomed by Israel and Saudi Arabia.
    • The US actions meant that Israel got the opening it was eyeing to carry out its numerous covert and overt operations against Iran. This was very evident when Israeli agents carried out an audacious operation to steal the documents pertaining to Iran’s nuclear programme from a warehouse in Iran.
    • Iran’s nuclear scientists came under attack as seen in the recent assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iranian military personnel in Syria also suffered at the hands of Israeli bombing.
  4. Joe Biden era set to take off
    • The new President-elect Joe Biden was part of the Obama administration, Biden served as Obama’s vice-president.
    • Therefore, it is no surprise that Biden wants to reinstate the agreement albeit with few additional conditions.
    • He has the responsibility to ensure that the Middle-east is stable and has all the major players on board.
  5. Iran’s conundrum
    • On one hand, Iran risks inviting more sanctions and losing goodwill if it retaliates to the killing of its nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and if it doesn’t retaliate it will be seen as a weak move.
    • Iran has, however, has taken a more prudent choice by not walking into the trap by retaliating, instead, it has resorted to bringing about legislation that permits Iran to enrich Uranium to a20% from the current 5%. This is still within the weapon-grade level of 90%. And also to stop UN access to its top nuclear reactors if sanctions are not lifted.
  6. India’s interest
    • India’s economic and security interests will be impacted by the turn of events in the immediate neighbourhood of West Asia.
    • The RBI said that 52% of remittances to India come from the Gulf and West Asia and also the safety of a large amount of Indian diaspora is of immense concern to India.
    • India’s growth aspirations are intertwined with energy security and the region is the primary crude oil source to India and any disruption due to geopolitical tensions will have a telling effect on India’s economy.
  • The West Asia region has never been short of drama and tension, the three major players are committed to neutralizing any efforts to gain preponderance.
  • The US has the opportunity to get Iran back to the negotiating table and it has to expend adequate diplomatic capital in bringing its allies Israel and Saudi Arabia on board.

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