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NUKEWARS
Two years on, nuclear deal has fewer friends in US and Iran
By Nicolas REVISE, with Eric Randolph in Tehran
Washington (AFP) July 14, 2017


The Iran nuclear deal
Tehran (AFP) July 14, 2017 - The landmark nuclear deal signed two years ago on July 14, 2015 by Iran and major world powers led to a partial lifting of international sanctions on Tehran.

Struck in Vienna by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) plus Germany, the deal established controls to prevent Tehran from developing an atom bomb.

The UN atomic agency said as recently as June 2 that Tehran is sticking to the terms of the deal, having neither enriched uranium to prohibited levels, nor built up illegal stocks of low-enriched uranium or heavy water.

- Nuclear downsizing -

The objective of the accord is bring to a minimum of one year, for at least 10 years, the "breakout time", or the time Iran needs to produce enough fissile material to make an atom bomb. It is also meant to ensure that any moves to do so will be easily detectable.

Under the deal, Tehran agreed to slash the number of uranium centrifuges, which can enrich uranium for nuclear fuel as well as for nuclear weapons, from more than 19,000 to 5,060, maintaining this level for 10 years.

All enrichment takes place at the Natanz facility. The Fordo site, containing an additional 1,044 centrifuges, is no longer allowed under the accord to enrich uranium.

Iran's pre-deal stockpile of 12 tonnes of low-enriched uranium -- enough for several nuclear weapons if further enriched -- is under the deal reduced to 300 kilogrammes (660 pounds), a ceiling that will last for 15 years.

Only enrichment to low purities is allowed, also for 15 years.

Iran's Arak reactor is also to be redesigned so that it does not produce weapons-grade plutonium, the alternative to highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.

Tehran will not build another heavy water reactor for 15 years.

- Controlling the deal -

A so-called Additional Protocol is applied, allowing for closer inspections, including potentially of military bases.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also employs high-tech surveillance equipment and has access to facilities such as uranium mines and centrifuge workshops for periods of up to 25 years.

- Sanctions -

The accord, adopted by the UN Security Council on July 20, 2015, came into force on January 16, 2016, opening the way for a partial lifting of international sanctions on Iran.

UN embargos on conventional arms and on ballistic missiles have been maintained up to 2020 and 2023 respectively.

Many international sanctions have since been lifted, opening the door for foreign investors. In early July, French group Total, heading an international consortium, signed $4.8-billion deal with Iran.

However, Washington has imposed new measures targeting Iran's ballistic missile programme and activities in the region.

Signed with pomp and fanfare on July 14, 2015, the Iranian nuclear agreement was heralded as a triumph for American diplomacy and international cooperation on nonproliferation.

Two years later, it has few friends in the Trump administration or in Tehran.

When it was signed in Vienna, President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, claimed the pact -- commonly known as JCPOA, for Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- as an undeniable success.

Their Iranian counterparts, President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, were equally ebullient.

The pact was also signed by China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany, lending it additional weight.

In force since January 16, 2016, the JCPOA provides for international monitoring of Tehran's nuclear program to ensure its purely peaceful, civilian use.

In exchange, Tehran was promised the gradual lifting of the international sanctions that have strangled the Iranian economy for years.

But during his presidential campaign, billionaire Republican Donald Trump made the accord a favorite target. In campaign speech after campaign speech, he pronounced it "the worst deal ever," and he vowed, if elected, to "rip it up."

As president, however, Trump has not carried out his threat.

In May, the Trump administration even decided to pursue the Obama policy of easing some sanctions at least while completing a JCPOA review to decide -- in principle by Monday -- whether to continue lifting sanctions.

- Obama legacy at stake -

After vowing to drop out of the Paris climate agreement and questioning the Obama-era opening to Cuba, Trump would be dealing a terrible blow to his predecessor's legacy if he decided to abandon the JCPOA.

The former real estate mogul has already staked out contrary positions to Obama in the Middle East, tightening US ties to Saudi Arabia's Sunni leaders while calling for the "isolation" of their Shiite rivals in Iran.

Washington accuses Tehran of posing a regional "threat" that "destabilizes" Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, either directly or through its "terrorist" proxies.

The Republican-controlled US Senate passed a bill in June to impose new sanctions on Tehran for its "support for international terrorism." Meantime, the State Department, which since 1984 has declared Iran a "state sponsor of terror," continues to punish Tehran for its ballistic missile program.

The JCPOA nonetheless still has its fervent supporters in Washington.

- 'An existential threat' -

The accord "removed an existential threat to the United States and our allies and partners," said a statement from Diplomacy Works, a pressure group founded by John Kerry and some former advisers.

The lobbying group added, "We encourage the administration to recertify Iran's compliance -- which they must do in order to reissue sanctions waivers due Monday."

As Jonathan Finer, a former Kerry chief of staff, told AFP, "The nuclear agreement is working... It would be hard to understand why the administration would want to generate a crisis" by tearing up the accord.

In a letter to Trump, 38 retired US generals and admirals stressed that the agreement had "successfully blocked Iran's paths to a nuclear weapon."

"Iran dismantled two-thirds of its centrifuges, gave up 98 percent of its stockpile of sensitive uranium and poured concrete into the core of its heavy-water reactor," the retired officers wrote.

In fact, the UN nuclear monitoring authority, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), praised Iran last month for respecting its commitments.

Europeans are deeply concerned, however, about the path Trump might take.

"What we are telling the Americans is that the JCPOA is not perfect but (is) much better than other options," a senior European official told reporters, speaking on grounds of anonymity.

"Losing the JCPOA would be a mistake."

The retired officers warned against "aggressive posturing that could pave the way to war" with Iran, something that seemed a possibility in the early 2000s.

- Dashed hopes in Iran -

In Tehran, too, the euphoria of July 2015 has given way to disillusion.

Even if the desire for closer ties with the West remains strong among many Iranians -- as shown by the re-election in May of the moderate Rouhani -- the much-anticipated economic fruits of the nuclear deal have been slow to materialize.

The continuing American sanctions frighten bankers and scare away international corporations.

While the French oil company Total did recently sign a $4.8 billion gas deal with Iran, foreign direct investment in the country topped out last year at $3.4 billion, a very long way from the $50 billion that Rouhani once promised.

And that provides grist for ultraconservative factions in Iran hostile to America.

As the holy month of Ramadan was ending in June, and just before a speech by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the official poet of the Islamic Republic proclaimed:

"Too much excitement over the JCPOA was a mistake,

Relying on Uncle Sam was a mistake,

O friends, we made a pact with a thief."

NUKEWARS
At UN, US accuses Iran of flouting resolution
United Nations, United States (AFP) June 29, 2017
The United States on Thursday accused Iran of "repeatedly and deliberately" violating a UN resolution that endorsed the landmark 2015 nuclear deal and said the Security Council had failed to respond. US Ambassador Nikki Haley pointed to "repeated ballistic missile launches, proven arms smuggling", purchases of missile technology and a violations of a travel ban on Iranian military officials ... read more

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