Why should the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) not be reneged?

For the past few months, the future prospects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (also known as Iran Nuclear deal) have sparked the debate in not only the policy circles of the Washington but among the experts and observers of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The driver of this change seems to be the statements of American President renouncing the JCPOA; for example, the nuclear deal was labeled as the “embarrassment” by President Trump and Iran was dubbed as the rogue state in a United Nations General Assembly speech.

Despite the reluctance of the European actors, Russia has explicitly ruled out the possibility of revoking the Iran Nuclear deal. Similarly, Chinese stance on the issue is in favor of the agreement. However, the critics of the JCPOA are of the view that future of the agreement is likely to be threatened especially if President Trump refuses to recertify the Iran in the month of October. In other words, if the Iran nuclear deal is not certified by President Trump, the likelihood of strict sanctions on Iran will be increased. That being said, the critics overlook the stage where Congress could or could not impose sanctions on Iran.

Second, the President Trump may be unpredictable but reopening the JCPOA may provide Iran with the rationale to go against the status quo. This implies that the acrimony expressed by the critics of the Iran Nuclear deal can undermine the possible consequences of revoking the agreement. For one, it will provide the opportunity to the Iranian hardliners for exploitation whose arguments are based on the opposition to the US and Iranian ultra-nationalism.

Third, given the tension over the Korean peninsula, the USA will end up exacerbating the foreign policy dilemma as well as increasing the chances of getting involved in another regional conflict. In addition to the turmoil in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, the Capitol Hill is not in a position to engage in the multifaceted conflicts of the Middle East. Likewise, the Saudi-Qatar episode and Yemen crisis are far from the resolution.

Fourth, retreat from the JCPOA may jeopardize the diplomatic efforts of the actors (P5+1), as this can disregard their stance in support of the agreement. “The JCPOA is an important outcome of multilateralism and a model of peacefully resolving the international hot-spot issue”, said the Chinese Foreign Minister spokesperson on 20th September 2017.

Fifth, regardless of the future of the JCPOA, it is hard to ignore the growing influence of Iran, a good example to substantiate this claim is to look at the role Iran played and continues to do so in the Saudi-Qatar impasse. For instance, Iran provided an alternative to Qatar for meeting food needs and an air airspace for transportation as a result of the Saudi-led blockade.

Sixth, the diplomatic row between the US and Iran seem limited to the politics, however, its effects in the domain of people to people interaction, education, and cultural program will be affected, as the US State Department Programs focused on improving the relations with Iran. In other words, it will obstruct the efforts and investment put into the project of developing better ties with Iran.

Seventh, all those who claim that President Trump can revoke the JCPOA often fail to take into account the fact that withdrawal of one of the important actors in the global agreements like Paris Deal is important. However, when the withdrawal of one powerful actor is equated with the end of the commitment on agreements such as the Paris Climate deal, it does not necessarily indicate the end of the agreement. Therefore, applying the same logic in case of the tension between the US and Iran, it will not be correct to say that the opposition of one powerful actor can nullify it completely.