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What Iran really wants from the nuclear deal

Iran’s ruling clerics frequently complain, without evidence, that the US is not complying with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal reached in 2015 between Tehran and six world powers. Since Iran continues to receive significant sanctions relief under the agreement, and is also conducting an increasing amount of business with the West, what exactly are they complaining about, and why?
The accusations that the US is not complying with the deal are part of a strategy that Tehran has employed since the agreement was signed, and which has three major objectives. The first is to coerce the agreement’s other signatories, by threats and tough language, into continuing sanctions relief. The second is to divert attention from Tehran’s own non-compliance with the nuclear agreement. The third is to project a strength that does not exist by bolstering the pretense that Tehran is not desperate for the nuclear agreement to remain in place.
The reality is that Iran needs the nuclear agreement more than the West does. Tehran is hemorrhaging billions of dollars on Bashar Assad in Syria and its Shiite militia proxies there and elsewhere in the region. The continuation of sanctions relief under the nuclear agreement is critical to Tehran.
The US has not violated the nuclear agreement, as Iranian leaders claim. Washington’s unilateral sanctions are a response to Tehran’s ballistic missile program. Since the nuclear agreement was signed, Tehran has fired at least 10 ballistic missiles, some of them into Syria, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. US sanctions also targeted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the main player in Iran’s ballistic missile activities and the backbone of its support for terrorist groups in the region. These sanctions have nothing to do with the nuclear agreement, which was signed by several participants, not just Washington and Tehran, and addressed only Tehran’s nuclear program.
In fact, it is Tehran that has breached the deal, and more than once. As US president Donald Trump has pointed out: “They are not in compliance with the agreement and they certainly are not in the spirit of the agreement, and I think you’ll see some very strong things taking place if they don’t get themselves in compliance.”

Complaints from Tehran about US sanctions are a smokescreen intended to conceal its own clandestine attempts to build a weapon of mass destruction.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

The Iranian government has not only defied the terms of the nuclear agreement, but has also tried to bypass its restrictions. The Institute for Science and International Security reported that Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization had recently made an attempt to purchase tons of controlled carbon fiber. “This raises concerns over whether Iran intends to abide by its JCPOA commitments,” the institute said. “In particular, Iran may seek to stockpile the carbon fiber so as to be able to build advanced centrifuge rotors far beyond its current needs under the JCPOA, providing an advantage that would allow it to quickly build an advanced centrifuge enrichment plant if it chose to leave or disregard the JCPOA during the next few years.”
Tehran has also twice exceeded the amount of heavy water it is permitted to hold under the terms of the JCPOA. Heavy water is used for the development of nuclear weapons.
Another intelligence report, this one from the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, states: “Regardless of the number of national and international sanctions and embargoes, countries like Iran, Pakistan and North Korea are making efforts to optimize technology... products and scientific knowhow in the field of developing weapons of mass destruction as well missile technology.”
Another state intelligence report revealed: “German companies in Rhineland-Palatinate were contacted in illegal procurement attempts by Pakistan, North Korea and Iran. The procurement attempts involved goods that were subject to authorization and approval on account of legal export restrictions and UN embargoes. These goods, for example, could be used for a state’s nuclear and missile programs.”
Any expert who has studied Iran’s nuclear file for over a decade knows it is filled with clandestine nuclear activities and defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The nuclear agreement is simply another stage in Iran’s pursuit of regional domination.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh