Upon becoming a member of the UN Security Council in January Ireland was appointed as “Facilitator of Resolution 2231”, the Security Council resolution endorsing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal. The deal’s objective is to prevent Iran from further developing nuclear weapons technology while allowing it to continue a programme for the production of nuclear energy for civil use. In addition to Iran, the parties to the deal originally were the US, China, Russia, France, the UK, Germany and the EU. In January 2016 the deal resulted in all nuclear-related economic sanctions previously imposed on Iran by the US, the EU and the Security Council being removed.

The JCPOA was designed to contain Iran’s nuclear weapons programme for at least a decade and enable regular monitoring and inspection of Iran’s nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In 2018 then US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the deal, reimposed US sanctions on Iran and prescribed the imposition of secondary sanctions for trading with Iran. His doing so created substantial difficulties not only for Iran but also for the other remaining parties to the deal who stood by it.

To encourage Iran maintain its nuclear containment commitments active steps were taken to circumvent the barriers to trade with Iran created by US sanctions. At EU level enthusiasm for the JCPOA was not dented by Trump’s action. EU high representative Josep Borrell marked its fifth anniversary in July 2020 by asserting his “determination to do everything possible” to preserve it, stating there should be no assumption an opportunity will arise again “to address Iran’s nuclear programme in such a comprehensive manner”.

The problem with all of this is that the 2015 deal does not address Iran’s nuclear programme in “a comprehensive manner”. The second problem is that by July 2020, despite Iran initially pledging to abide by the deal after US withdrawal, it was clear that Iran was not doing so and was also at an advanced stage of developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads.

Contrary to the hype, compliance with the JCPOA does not stop Iran acquiring nuclear missiles and becoming a nuclear power. The inclusion of sunset clauses merely temporarily delays Iran acquiring such capability. Agreeing to the plan eased Iran’s economic difficulties, resulted in Iranian assets being unfrozen and Iran accessing about $50 billion (€42bn) in usable liquid assets. The funds obtained enabled Iran to turbo-charge its hegemonic aims and destabilising role in the Middle East and created an Iranian sense of impunity when both engaging in and financing global terror. Today Iran is the main state instigator of global terrorism.

Credibility gap

Iran for considerable time protested that its only interest was in the peaceful civil use of nuclear power. The credibility gap in this narrative was partially created by Iran’s leaders’ repetitive threats to wipe Israel off the map. The Israeli government sharing the contents of Iran’s secret nuclear records with parties to the nuclear deal after their seizure by Mossad in a covert operation in Tehran in 2018 should have removed any doubts as to Iran’s ultimate nuclear ambitions. So should recent findings of the IAEA, Iran’s recently announced installation and mass production of new uranium enriching centrifuges and the Iranian parliament’s December 2020 legislation to accelerate enrichment and purify uranium to 20 per cent. Just three weeks ago Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenie asserted this may increase to 60 per cent. The JCPOA sets a limit of 3.67 per cent until 2030.

In February 2019 the IAEA found multiple nuclear particles of man-made origin at an undeclared Iranian site and IAEA testing conducted in three other undeclared locations during 2020 discovered nuclear material and also equipment contaminated by nuclear material. According to the IAEA none of these have been properly explained by Iran. On March 3rd the UK, France and Germany urged Iranian compliance with the JCPOA asserting that Iran should stop impeding the IAEA’s work. Meantime, the threat posed by Iranian expansionism, sponsored terrorism and its nuclear aspirations has propelled Sunni Arab nations to enter into historic comprehensive peace agreements with Israel to present a united front against Iranian aggression. Iran predictably condemned the agreements.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney landed in the middle of this quagmire when visiting Tehran on Sunday, March 7th in exercise of Ireland’s role as “Facilitator of Resolution 2231”. Coveney met the Iranian President Dr Hassan Rouhani and foreign minister Dr Javad Zarif for what were later described by him as “intensive and productive discussions”. He asserted the existence of an historic opportunity to “return to dialogue and agree a path back to the agreement” but did not explain what was “productive” about the discussions. White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan subsequently was reported acknowledging that indirect discussions are taking place about both the US and Iran resuming compliance with the JCPOA.

In his post meeting statement Coveney “reiterated Ireland’s firm commitment to a negotiated two-state solution” to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He did not reveal whether the Tehran discussions addressed Iran’s repetitive publicly declared aspiration to wipe Israel off the map, Iran’s condemnation of the Abraham Accords – agreed by the UAE and Bahrain with Israel in 2020 – and opposition to any Israeli/Palestinian peace settlement that falls short of Israel’s total destruction.

Just restoring the 2015 nuclear deal, for which Coveney has expressed some enthusiasm, should not be the main objective. A return to the past can only ensure, like North Korea, Iran will ultimately acquire nuclear weapons and upon doing so will use its power to threaten and dominate neighbouring states and also threaten European and American security. Whether it will carry out its threat to wipe Israel off the map should not be left to chance by Ireland or any other state. What is required is a new deal in which Iran renounces the development and use of nuclear weapons, ends its development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, agrees to the supervised disposal of nuclear materials of no relevance to the peaceful use of nuclear power, agrees to watertight supervision and totally transparent oversight arrangements, renounces the use of State terror and ends its international funding of terrorist organisations. Now that would be something really worthwhile for Ireland to facilitate during its two years’ membership of the UN Security Council.

Source » irishtimes