UN must respond to Iran’s breaches of nuclear deal
The clock is ticking as the Iranian regime defiantly begins spinning more centrifuges, enriching uranium to a higher level, and pursuing its nuclear ambitions at a faster pace.
One of the most powerful tools the international community possesses as it aims to halt Iran’s nuclear activities is to immediately start the process of restoring UN sanctions against Tehran. When the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aka the Iran nuclear deal, was struck in 2015, the signatories agreed to lift the UN sanctions against Tehran as a reward for the ruling clerics’ promise to restrict their nuclear activities and comply with the terms of the deal.
The sanctions were significant, as they threatened the hold on power of the ruling clergy and ultimately brought the Iranian leaders to the negotiating table between 2013 and 2015.
There were four rounds of sanctions. The first, which included UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions 1696 and 1737, imposed in 2006, called on Iran to “suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development” and called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to provide a report regarding Iran’s compliance with the terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The five permanent members of the UNSC also unanimously called on all countries to freeze the financial assets of Iranian entities linked to the nuclear program, to ban Iran’s import and export of “sensitive nuclear material and equipment,” and to sanction the supply or sale of nuclear-related equipment and technology.
The second round of sanctions was adopted by the UNSC through resolution 1747, which imposed an arms embargo on Iran, banning all of Tehran’s arms exports and placing travel restrictions on individuals linked to the nuclear program. The third round, resolution 1803, imposed restrictions on Iranian bank transactions and called on countries to inspect Iranian ships and cargo planes where there were reasonable grounds to believe that the regime was smuggling prohibited products. Finally, the fourth round of sanctions came through resolution 1929, which banned Iran from buying heavy weapons and further tightened the grip on Iran’s financial dealings.
Reinstating these sanctions would undoubtedly put significant pressure on the Iranian leaders. There is a provision within UNSC resolution 2231, which ratified the JCPOA, that would allow such a course of action. In order to invoke this provision, “a JCPOA participant state” can notify the UNSC that there has been a “significant non-performance of commitments under the JCPOA.”
Several European politicians have already begun changing their soft stance toward Iran.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
The challenge here is that the US is no longer considered a JCPOA participant state. If the Trump administration had not withdrawn from the nuclear deal, it could have sent Iran’s nuclear file to the UNSC, detailing its violations of the JCPOA, including enriching uranium at a higher level and spinning more centrifuges than permitted.
Russia and China are not willing to take a stand against Iran’s nuclear defiance. As a result, to address this shortcoming the US must persuade one of its European allies that is still a party to the JCPOA — France, Germany or the UK — to report Iran’s non-compliance to the UNSC.
The UK would seem to be the most likely candidate to perform such a task, as France and Germany appear to be on the left of the political spectrum and are still advocating for having a cordial relationship with Iran and salvaging the nuclear deal.
Through its diplomatic initiatives, global economic leverage and the old transatlantic partnership, the US can persuade its European allies to halt Iran’s march toward becoming a nuclear state. Several European politicians have already begun changing their soft stance toward Iran. For example, one senior European diplomat anonymously told Reuters: “The more Iranians do things that potentially violate the accord, the less inclined we are to make efforts to help them.” The diplomat added: “It’s a vicious circle. If they go in this direction, they will be all alone, face snapback and be ostracized by everyone.”
If Iran’s breaches are reported to the UNSC, the members will have 30 days to resolve the issue. If all five permanent members do not agree on a subsequent resolution to maintain the lifting of the sanctions, then all four rounds will be automatically reimposed.
Before it is too late and before Iran becomes a nuclear state, it is time for the UN to bring back its sanctions against the theocratic establishment.
- 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. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh