Iran has five options on the table in response to US efforts to extend arms embargo on Tehran, which will allow the country a chance for “countermeasure” against continued lack of commitment by the Western sides and Washington’s plots.
As the time for the removal of the arms embargo on Tehran approaches, Washington is trying to create obstacles and prevent the normalization of Iran’s position in the global arms market. However, the fact of the matter is that Iran’s hands are not exactly tied in this situation.
Late last year, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has worked hard to get his country out of the JCPOA and put maximum pressure on Iran, while failing to mention the US’ billion-dollar arms deals with Arab countries, referred to a clause in the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, of which the JCPOA is a part, and called the end of Iran’s arms embargo a cause of insecurity in West Asia.
Pompeo and the US Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, have repeatedly called for an immediate halt to the process of the embargo removal, which is set to take place in October under Resolution 2231.
The Washington Post reported late last month that the US would initially seek a consensus in the Security Council to pass a resolution under which Iran’s arms embargo would be extended indefinitely.
The report went on to say that if the United States failed in doing so, it would use Resolution 2231 to declare itself a party to the JCPOA and trigger the dispute mechanism. Doing so would snap back all UN sanctions under Chapter VII, which also includes the arms embargo.
Iran, in response, has cited the unilateral and illegal withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA, which practically stripped the US of any rights regarding the deal, and stressed that the country would take countermeasures if the US succeeded in re-imposing the arms embargo.
Although countries such as China and Russia have officially stated that the US efforts are illogical as Washington is no longer a party to the nuclear deal, Tehran also has several options on the table that could stop these efforts from bearing fruit.
1. Limiting inspections
Given that Iran is under the strictest methods of inspection, it seems that the country can limit the scope of the inspections regarding the area, the number of inspectors, and the level of access.
In this regard, Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), noted the possibility of limiting inspections in a press conference at Fordow enrichment facility on November 9, 2019, saying “regarding our steps to reduce commitments to the JCPOA, I should mention that the IAEA’s inspections are no longer necessary, and if they still want to continue the inspections, they will just be wasting their time.”
Mohammad Ali Pourmokhtar, a member of the Legal and Judicial Commission of the 10th Parliament, also noted the lack of commitment by the Western sides, saying “If the Europeans continue to fail to live up to their commitments and the country’s interests are not met, certain restrictions will be imposed on the IAEA’s inspections.”
Mohammad Javad Jamali Nobandegani, Deputy Chairman of the National Security Commission of the 10th Parliament, also said in this regard, “imposing certain restrictions on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities could be on the agenda as part of reducing the country’s commitments to the JCPOA.”
2. Increasing the level of enrichment
Before the signing of the nuclear deal, Iran was enriching uranium at 20 percent, and many saw this as a bargaining chip for the country. Political analysts believe that with enrichment above 5 percent considered as a redline, the country’s announcement of a return to the 20 percent could be an effective step against the West’s continued lack of commitment.
Kamalvandi said in his press conference last year in Fordow, “We have the ability to enrich uranium up to 60% and we will do it based on the needs of the country and the directives of our authorities.”
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization, also told Mehr on the sidelines of reporters’ visit to the Shahid Ahmadi Roshan Enrichment Complex (Natanz), “Whenever senior officials order for 20 percent enrichment, we will get it done in four minutes.”
In this regard, the Deputy Chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the 10th Parliament also said, “one step of reducing Iran’s commitments could be the increase in the level of enrichment as much as required in order to force Europeans to fulfill their obligations.”
3. Stopping the implementation of Additional Protocol
Iran is implementing the Additional Protocol voluntarily under the JCPOA, and according to the terms of the agreement, the country’s Parliament must review and ratify the Additional Protocol eight years after the deal was adopted.
However, given that the United States unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA and that the three countries, Britain, Germany, and France, are not fulfilling their commitments under the deal, some officials have noted that Iran could stop the implementation of the Additional Protocol as a countermeasure and a serious warning to the remaining European signatories to the nuclear deal to fulfill their commitments.
Ali Motahari, the former deputy speaker of the Iranian Parliament, said in this regard, “Now that Iran is under so much pressure and its nuclear facilities are under inspection more than any other country, we can refrain from implementing the Additional Protocol.”
The spokesman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the 10th Parliament also said in the same vein, “When the Additional Protocol is being implemented voluntarily, but the other side does not live up to its commitments, then the Islamic Republic can stop the voluntary implementation of this protocol.”
4. Leaving NPT
Iran joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and kept its membership in this controversial treaty after the Islamic Revolution. Many experts believe that it is a mistake for Iran to continue its participation in the NPT in the face of repeated failure of the Western sides to fulfill their commitments to the nuclear deal.
Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, had said before Trump’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, “If the United States withdraws from the nuclear deal known as the JCPOA, one of Iran’s options is to withdraw from the NPT.”
After the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI), said in a statement that the AEOI had made as many as 15 proposals to reduce Iran’s commitments to the nuclear deal, and leaving the NPT was one of them.
According to the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and the spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization, it is clear that leaving the NPT is one of the options on Iran’s table to counter the US and Europeans’ lack of commitments, and the possibility of making this decision in its due time is very high.
In addition to Shamkhani and Kamalvandi’s remarks, Hamid Baeedinejad, Iran’s ambassador to London, told British journalists and media outlets, “some circles in Iran are of the opinion that at the moment, the country is not benefitting from its membership to the NPT. Following the issues surrounding the JCPOA, more and more people are paying attention to what is being said about leaving the NPT.”
5. Leaving the JCPOA
One of the most important countermeasures against the Western sides’ continued lack of commitment and the US’ sabotage is to withdraw from the nuclear deal. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview, “Iran has several options and leaving the JCPOA is one of them. This is definitely one of the dozens of options we have.”
He also said in a journalists’ roundtable held at the UN office in Tehran that Iran might withdraw from the nuclear deal if the EU’s financial mechanism did not work.
In addition to Zarif’s remarks, Seyed Abbas Araghchi, deputy foreign minister and a senior member of the nuclear negotiating team, in an interview with a national TV channel on May 7 announced the withdrawal of the JCPOA as one of the options on Iran’s table, saying, “We have leaving the JCPOA on our agenda.”
In another interview, Araghchi stressed that what was important was Iran’s interests, not the preservation of the JCPOA, adding, “If the country’s interests demand that we abandon the JCPOA, this will happen.”
In a roundtable at the Non-proliferation conference in Moscow, he said, “It is clear that when an agreement is not in your best interest, there is no reason for you to stick to your commitments. Everyone knows that the balance of the agreement is completely upset. Any agreement is based on give and take. If Iran is only going to give and not take anything in return, why should it stay in this agreement?”
Iran’s change of attitude in the nuclear doctrine
At the Moscow meeting, Araghchi, while recalling Iran’s nuclear cooperation, in a way threatened the Western sides to the JCPOA, saying, “If Iran’s reward after all this interaction, negotiation and cooperation with the IAEA is to be put once again under Chapter VII [of the UN Charter], this means that our “nuclear doctrine” has been wrong all along, and we need to reconsider our policy and our nuclear doctrine.”
Furthermore, President Hassan Rouhani told a cabinet meeting on May 7 that “the lifting of the arms embargo is an integral part of the JCPOA. If the arms embargo returns one day under any pretext and via any mechanism, our response will be the same as I wrote in the last paragraph of a letter to the P5+1 leaders. They know all too well what our response will be that day, and what severe consequences such a mistake will bring them.”
These two issues show that Iran, by adopting a coherent and deterrent strategy, is trying to tell the Europeans that if their passivity in the face of US’ excessive demands is to continue, Iran will give an appropriate response that would include the country’s national interests.
By: Mohsen Ahadi