Nuclear Iran: In Light of Recent Elections

U.S. Mission / Eric Bridiers

May 17, 2017 was a date whose significance alluded most.  Its importance re-stemmed from the fact that it marked the deadline for president Donald Trump to make a decision in regards to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal. Considered perhaps one of president Obama’s greatest foreign policy achievements, the deal seeks to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities in order that the energy might be used only for peaceful purposes in exchange for the lifting of sanctions and the return of frozen assets.

While taking a different approach to his competitors in the GOP primary (who suggested they would tear up the deal immediately after taking office), the president doesn’t seem too keen on the agreement. On the campaign trail, candidate Trump branded it “one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen” and at a rally in Biloxi Mississippi “It’s almost like there has to be something else going on, I don’t think there is, I just don’t think they’re competent.” Mr. Trump adopted a slightly more reassuring tone on MSNBC’s Morning Joe where he stated ““We have a horrible contract, but we do have a contract,”.

If Mr. Trump does not sign a waiver lifting sanctions once more by the 19fth, they will snap-back into place. Notwithstanding any flagrant violations by Iran, this makes the US the aggressive party. The state department has certified that, to date, Iran has complied with the terms set out in the JCPOA. In a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan noting the aforementioned, secretary of state Rex Tillerson complains that the deal does nothing to restrain Iranian regional aggression. This is true but intentional. Had the two been linked, we would have had no deal.

Key Provisions of the Deal

The primary goal of the deal is to increase Iran’s breakout time (the time it would take to build an atomic bomb). Under the agreement, the nation would lose 97% of its enriched uranium and shutdown 14,000 of its 20,000 centrifuges. Uranium enrichment moving forward would only be enriched to a point unsuitable for weapons production.

Iran’s major nuclear facilities are constantly monitored by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency. If there is suspicion of breaches at other facilities, it may take up to 24 days.

In exchange, sanctions are lifted and billions of dollars in frozen assets are released back to the Iranians.

Impact

Trade Sanctions caused Iran’s economy to contract 6.6% in 2012, and 1.9% in 2013.GDP was up only 1.5% by 2015. Since the lifting of sanctions, the economy has witnessed a doubling of oil exports and a rash of foreign investment deals. The International Monetary Fund predicts between 4 and 5% growth in 2016, well above the 1.3% of its original forecast.

Aside from the obvious (economic resolution and possibly war), one is often over looked.

On May 19, a scant 2 days after the waiver deadline expired, the Iranian presidential elections took place, where President Hassan Rouhani won by a wide-margin. Although the immediate collapse of the deal seems unlikely, its future is precarious considering the Trump administration reluctantly signed the sanctions waivers (one of the key elements of the nuclear deal) and Iran was not invited to partake in a summit meeting in Saudi Arabia between Trump and Arab gulf leaders.

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