Earlier this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif justified Iran’s violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of  Action (JCPOA) by increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium above the limit set by the deal.

According to Iran’s unofficial PressTV news, after announcing that Iran had a stockpile of enriched uranium exceeding the 300 kilogram limit set out by the deal, Zarif said, “According to what has been announced, we have said very clearly what we are doing and consider this as part of our rights as per the JCPOA.”

He cited section 36 of the JCPOA that if a party to the deal has a grievance that is not dealt with “then that participant could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA.”

Section 37 added, “Iran has stated that if sanctions are reinstated in whole or in part, Iran will treat that as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.”

Of course, there’s more to section 36. It lays out the procedure for filing and handling the grievance. It isn’t at all clear that Iran has followed that procedure. Rather Zarif wrote, “We triggered & exhausted para 36 after US withdrawal; we gave E3+2 a few weeks while reserving our right; [and] we finally took action after 60 weeks.”

I’ve researched a bit and haven’t found any news reports that Iran formally made a referral as outlined by the JCPOA.  (According to this paper from May of this year, Iran had not yet referred any complaints about American non-compliance to the Joint Commission. In other words, Iran apparently isn’t following the terms of the JCPOA for walking away from the deal.)

What’s clear from sections 36 and 37, though, is that the JCPOA gives escape hatches to leave the deal without penalty.

In a post I wrote in the wake of the nuclear deal, I observed:

If the process of finding Iran in violation is completed and an effort is made to reimpose sanctions, what is to stop Iran from saying, “okay we’re leaving the JCPOA.” Obama has said that this negotiation process has kept a rein on Iran’s nuclear development, but doesn’t this mean that an attempt to re-impose sanctions if Iran is found in breach of its obligations could mean that Iran could then legally “cease performing” its JCPOA obligations?

There are many problems with the language in the JCPOA, but the language allowing Iran to walk away from the deal – apparently with no penalty – is one of the worst.

When the deal was being discussed, my congressman, Rep. John Sarbanes (D – Md.) wrote, “I have engaged in a careful review of the relevant documents that form the JCPOA, and have participated in numerous classified and unclassified briefings from U.S. diplomatic, military, national security and intelligence officials.”

Yet Sarbanes had also decided to support the deal because “I believe it will be effective in pulling Iran back from the threshold of becoming a nuclear weapon state and in keeping Iran away from that threshold for at least ten to twelve years.”

Sarbanes is a lawyer who presumably studied contracts and despite his “careful review” of the JCPOA and related documents, he didn’t detect this escape hatch in the deal itself for Iran. He was either lying about his careful review or he is a horrible lawyer for contracts.

And however righteously Zarif proclaims Iran’s fealty to the JCPOA, it’s clear that Iran only relies on those parts of the deal with which it agrees.

For example, because the JCPOA is supposed to ensure that Iran has no military nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which is charged with ensuring that Iran is compliance should be able to demand access to military sites. However, Iran has refused access to its military sites, even though there is evidence that it was developing nuclear weapons technology at its military site in Parchin.

(The IAEA has also said that it would refuse to demand access to military sites, meaning that Iran has large areas that are off-limits to nuclear inspectors. So much for the “most intrusive inspection regime ever.”)

In any case, Zarif’s appeal to the JCPOA is interesting. The dirty secret of the JCPOA is that it was never signed – this was something demanded by Iran.

What was supposed to make it binding was United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231. This is something Zarif himself said in response to a letter written by Sen. Tom Cotton (R –  Ark.) ostensibly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

At the time, Zarif wrote on Iran’s Foreign Ministry website, that the deal “will not be a bilateral agreement between Iran and the US, but rather one that will be concluded with the participation of five other countries, including all permanent members of the Security Council, and will also be endorsed by a Security Council resolution.”

But Iran has been found to be in violation of terms of 2231 by the United Nations.

Iran is prohibited by Resolution 2231, from “the supply, sale, transfer, manufacture, maintenance, or use of arms” to other nations and groups until 2020. The resolution also prohibited Iran from the sale or transfer of ballistic missiles until 2023.

In January of last year, a United Nations panel found that Iran had violated a UN arms embargo on the Houthi rebels in Yemen. If Iran was shipping arms to any party it was also violating 2231.

So for Zarif to cry like Iran is the aggrieved party is entertaining theater, but it’s phony. Iran is violating the UN resolution that implemented the deal.

Iran is now using its violation of the JCPOA as nuclear blackmail.

In response to European concerns about Iran’s violation of the JCPOA, European leaders urged Iran to come back into compliance.

Zarif responded, “So moving forward, Iran will comply with its commitments under the JCPOA in exactly the same manner as the EU/E3 have—and will—comply with theirs.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed that if Europe fails to hold up its end of the bargain, Iran will restart its Arak heavy water reactor. This would allow Iran to produce plutonium for a potential nuclear weapon.

The threat about Arak is particularly concerning. According to the terms of the deal, the calandria, a container at the center of the reactor was supposed to be filled with concrete, rendering it unusable for any future nuclear use. However, earlier this year Ali Akbar Salehi boasted that Iran had secretly maintained tubing for a new calandria that they could use to restart the reactor in Arak.

Apparently, Rouhani means that Iran will take advantage of its cheating and reconstitute the reactor, allowing Iran to produce plutonium, which, like enriched uranium, could be used as fuel in a nuclear weapon.

Zarif’s proclamation and Iran’s actions show that the JCPOA was utterly useless in stemming Iran’s ambitions for a nuclear weapon.

The withdrawal of the U.S. from the deal may have prompted Iran to openly violate the deal earlier. But with renewed U.S. sanctions, Iran will have less room to maneuver.

If only Europe would realize how misbegotten and ineffectual the deal is and would join the U.S. in re-imposing nuclear sanctions on Iran, Iran’s day of reckoning would be closer at hand.

[Photo: PressTV ]


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