Saturday, 08 August, 2020

Trump’s approach to kill JCPOA will ‘do irreparable damage’ to UNSC: FP

A new report has warned that the approach adopted by the administration of US President Donald Trump to kill off the 2015 Iran nuclear deal will not only lead to “serious consequences” for the multilateral agreement, but also “do irreparable damage” to the UN Security Council (UNSC).

The Foreign Policy reported on Friday that Washington is dialing up efforts to kill the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) completely through pushing the remaining parties to the agreement to extend a UN arms embargo on Tehran.

The US, it added, is also threatening to trigger the so-called snapback of all UN sanctions on Iran under the pretext of what it calls Iran’s destabilizing activities.

However, such moves have placed Washington in “direct confrontation” with the JCPOA signatories, with Russia and China expressing their opposition to the US policy, and the Islamic Republic threatening to withdraw entirely from the JCPOA, as well as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), if UN sanctions are re-imposed, the report said.

“The showdown threatens not just the viability of the Iran nuclear deal, which has been tottering for two years—but which the remaining participants still hope can be salvaged—but also the legitimacy of the UN Security Council,” it noted.

Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), told the FP that the recent war of words between the US on one side and the remaining parties to the JCPOA on the other “has been brewing for several months, and now all the dirty laundry is coming into the public eye.”

“Iran hawks want to kill any trace of the JCPOA before the term is up, burn down any diplomatic bridges with Iran,” she pointed out.

The 2020 US presidential election is scheduled for November 3, 2020. Trump’s term will end on January 20, 2021 if he is not re-elected for second time.

“If we are in a situation where there is such a fundamental clash between the United States and other permanent members [of the Security Council], they are going to have a much more difficult time pushing through resolutions on areas where the United States may have previously been able to persuade Russia and China to come aboard,” Geranmayeh said. “It could really do irreparable damage to the UN Security Council framework.”

The FP said the Trump administration is hell-bent on employing a “scorched-earth policy” and ensure that, whatever happens in the November election, “Barack Obama’s Iran deal” is a cadaver. 

It said Washington’s effort to invoke UN arms sanctions on Iran—against the wishes of all the parties to the deal—would be a way to eliminate any hope of revival of the landmark deal.

Iran signed the JCPOA with six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — in 2015. 

The UNSC endorsed the deal under Resolution 2231, after which the 15-member body agreed to lift a UN embargo on the sales of conventional weapons to Iran on October 18, 2020.

Iran has warned the United States that it will not accept any violation of the UN Security Council resolution that mandates the lifting of the arms embargo against the Islamic Republic, saying Tehran is absolutely entitled to the ban’s cancellation.

Washington’s unilateral withdrawal in May 2018 and subsequent re-imposition of sanctions against Tehran left the future of the historic agreement in limbo.

Iran remained fully compliant with the JCPOA for an entire year, waiting for the co-signatories to fulfill their end of the bargain, but as the European sides failed to do so, the Islamic Republic moved in May 2019 to suspend its JCPOA commitments under Articles 26 and 36 of the deal covering Tehran’s legal rights.

Now, despite being not a party to the JCPOA, Washington is seeking to renew the Iran arms ban through a resolution at the Security Council, but Russia and China are most likely to veto it.  

To circumvent the veto, the US says it will argue that it legally remains a “participant state” in the nuclear pact only to invoke the snapback that would restore the UN sanctions, which had been in place against Iran prior to the JCPOA’s inking.

Earlier this week, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the US has already pulled out of the JCPOA and cannot currently use its former membership of the agreement to seek a permanent arms embargo on Tehran.

Kelsey Davenport, a nonproliferation expert at the Arms Control Association, described the US claim that it is still a member of the JCPOA as “ludicrous,” saying, “The United States has said on numerous occasions that it is no longer a part of JCPOA, but it is cherry-picking elements of 2231 that support its pressure campaign while refusing to meet US obligations elsewhere.”

The Trump administration is seeking to smash the JCPOA so that any future government cannot put the pieces back together, she stressed.

“They are trying to change the goal posts,” Davenport said. “If the United States goes down this road, it would have serious consequences not just for the Iran deal but for nuclear proliferation writ large.”

The report further highlighted the risks posed by the US approach towards Iran to its ties with North Korea to Venezuela. 

It referred to Pyongyang’s latest announcement that it pulling away from its relationship with Washington, two years after a historic handshake between Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

“You can’t solve North Korea or Iran without China, and you can’t solve North Korea if you blow up the JCPOA, because there’s no incentive to cooperate and any deal you make could be shredded,” said Jonathan Fulton, an expert on China and the Middle East at the Atlantic Council.

Meanwhile, Richard Nephew, Iran sanctions architect under former US President Barack Obama, said that he did not see any scenario where Russia and China agree to abide by snapback sanctions and that it was unlikely those veto-wielding UNSC member states will sign up to any future efforts to use sanctions against countries.

“For people who oppose the JCPOA and who don’t like the UN, this is a golden opportunity to kill two birds with one stone,” he said. “In the worst-case scenario, the deal is dead, and the UN is rendered obsolete and neutered, which isn’t a bad thing from their [the Trump administration’s] perspective.”

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