The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a step in the right direction. The agreement takes place between Iran and six other nations, including the United States. It gives Iran approval to enrich uranium for civilian uses, while keeping in check its use for weapons development.

The agreement also lifts several sanctions off of Iran that were arguably not having the desired effects, while leaving more vital ones in place. Given the shaky recent history of Iranian relations with the UN, the agreement is a calculated and smart plan of action towards overall peace. Through this plan, Iran is not economically crippled under sanctions and international tensions with Iran across the rest of the international community are eased as well.

In recent years Iran has been under constant pressure from the international community over its enrichment of uranium and attempted development of nuclear capabilities. It’s possible that under such international pressure Iran could eventually have felt compelled to continue with its enrichment in secret. Thus, while the JCPOA is arguably not a complete non-proliferation agreement, it doesn’t need to be in order to be effective and ultimately ease tensions on all sides long-term. Over the past thirty years, for example, the U.S. has been concerned mainly with stopping Iran’s support for terrorism and enthusiasm for nuclear power. Negotiations were always less than successful one-on-one, leading to the U.S. imposing crippling sanctions, with support from the international community coming later. But concern still remained on whether or not Iran was attempting to develop nuclear capabilities. Iran, for its part, was struggling under economic sanctions and nearly paranoid of possible U.S. attack or direct intervention. After all, one only needed to look on a map and see that the U.S. had attacked the country to the left of Iran (Iraq) and had attacked the country to the right of Iran (Afghanistan). Thinking Iran would be the final piece in a three-piece jigsaw puzzle of hard power geopolitics was not an entirely illogical concern for Iranian authorities. It was part of President Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ lest we forget. Any sort of military intervention, however, could have given Iran the legitimacy it needed for developing nuclear weapons in secret. Israel’s attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor and supposed involvement in the Stuxnet attack in Iran is an example of this. The bombing led directly to Iraq developing weapons further and Iran becoming more convinced than ever it needed the strength of nuclear deterrence in its corner. The smart emphasis should have been on diplomatic engagement and negotiations, however, not on covert military actions alone. And sanctions, quite frankly, only postponed dealing with the real problems and poisoned the diplomatic space. Thus, the consequential silence between Iran and the U.S. was drawn out by decades and Iran’s nuclear situation remained at best murky and uneasy. With this agreement, both sides can work away from violence, mistrust, and suspicion and towards engaged diplomacy instead.

Although the sanctions imposed were an attempt by the U.S. to hamper Iran’s economy, and thereby hampering its nuclear and military capability, it only seemed to hamper the former while igniting the latter. Iran’s economy indeed suffered greatly, but its supply of arms to Syria and terror factions all across the Middle East were not stymied at all. Iran’s nuclear aspirations seemed not to have been greatly affected by sanctions either: On March 16, 2014, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation Vann Van Diepen said Iran was still ‘very actively’ creating front companies and engaging in other activity to conceal procurements and that Iran's activities had not changed since the old Joint Plan of Action (JPA) was agreed to. This implied that Iran had internal capabilities not dependent on trade that could continue nuclear research as well as develop conventional weapons and arm external groups, regardless of how severe sanctions became. In this way, the sanctions were not only NOT achieving their goal but perhaps even doing the reverse: hurting the people while giving them reason to support their own government instead of oppose it.

Bijan Khajehpour, a political and economic analyst who was imprisoned in Iran, noted in 2009 how the nation was disappointed that in previous P5+1 negotiations the sanctions against it were not eased. However these sanctions were imposed partly because of Iran’s unwillingness to cooperate and openly limit its nuclear development. Now those two problems seem alleviated. Another positive upswing of the JCPOA is that the U.S. is not required to abandon its current sanctions against Iran in total. This includes sanctions for alleged human rights violations and terrorism support. These sanctions will remain in place while various other sanctions regarding economy and trade will be lifted. Due to the oil embargo and banking sanctions, inflation in Iran rose nearly 50% in 2013. Unrest due to Iran’s rising food prices have also been on the rise. Across the board it has been the civilian sector which bore the brunt of the effects of such sanctions. And they are hard to justify with the lack of any evidence actually showing the intended goals of deterring nuclear and military capability, and ultimately deposing the theocratic regime, were even coming close to being accomplished.

Thus, the JCPOA lifts the sanctions that were having ill effects that outweighed any alleged positive results, while implementing a program that will more effectively allow the international community to monitor Iran’s civilian nuclear development and keep it in check. Also built into the plan is a ‘snap back’ measure: if Iran is found in violation of the agreement, then the previous sanctions would fall back into effect. This mechanism will last for ten years with the option to reinstate it for another five. If it is determined that Iran has violated its agreement, the five nations can take a vote to lift the resolution and Iran’s sanctions will ‘snap back’ within 30 days. It’s an effective deterrence measure, as it is in Iran’s best interest to not allow these sanctions to fall back into place. Its economy needs a chance to grow again. That is a far greater national security goal than trying to force its way clumsily into the global nuclear club. Thus, Iran’s cooperation is a chance for it to demonstrate compliance and a positive attitude towards the international community while being a fully responsible and engaged member of said community. This potentiality alone makes the JCPOA cause for buoyed optimism. It is a chance to create a new diplomatic space and conversation where the sins of generations past, on BOTH sides, don’t continue to constantly haunt the arena. And absolution of these sins was something long ago needed.

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