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Open Letter to Iran’s and the P5+1/EU3+3’s Nuclear Negotiators
Open Letter to Iran’s and the P5+1/EU3+3’s Nuclear Negotiators
The Arduous Path to Restoring the Iran Nuclear Deal
The Arduous Path to Restoring the Iran Nuclear Deal

Open Letter to Iran’s and the P5+1/EU3+3’s Nuclear Negotiators

We would like to recognise the nuclear negotiators representing China, the European Union, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States for their unwavering endeavours since October 2013, which have led to agreement on the framework for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, announced on 2 April 2015.

As veteran practitioners of statecraft who understand the challenges of principled, patient and persistent diplomacy under tremendous domestic and external constraints, we applaud the negotiators for their courage, resolve and flexibility. Solving seemingly intractable international standoffs through peaceful means is a rarity in our troubled times; solutions that provide for win-win outcomes are even rarer.

Like all negotiated solutions, this understanding may not satisfy all stakeholders, but its realistic alternatives – a cycle of mutual escalation leading to an Iranian bomb or bombing Iran – will not stand them in better stead. Nor will this compromise assuredly reduce regional tensions; but its absence would likely further enflame them.

This understanding nonetheless stands as a singular accomplishment of our time, negotiated in good faith, with both sides achieving the maximum attainable under the circumstances. To ensure that this laudable step will lead to a lasting accord, we urge the negotiators to preserve the momentum and promptly finalise the remaining details – as well as critics to give them a chance.

Samuel Berger Former U.S. National Security Adviser, member of International Crisis Group’s Board of Trustees.

Carl Bildt Former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, member of International Crisis Group’s Board of Trustees.

Emma Bonino Former Foreign Minister of Italy, member of International Crisis Group’s Board of Trustees.

Micheline Calmy-Rey Former President and Foreign Minister of the Swiss Confederation, member of International Crisis Group’s Board of Trustees.

Jean-Marie Guéhenno President and CEO of International Crisis Group, former Deputy Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States on Syria, former UN Under Secretary-General for peacekeeping operations.

Thomas R. Pickering Former U.S. Undersecretary of State, Ambassador to the UN, Russia, India, Israel, Jordan, El Salvador and Nigeria, member of International Crisis Group’s Board of Trustees. 

Javier Solana Former EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Secretary General of the Council of the EU, former Secretary General of NATO, member of International Crisis Group’s Board of Trustees.

Contributors

Former President & CEO
jguehenno
Board Member and Former Crisis Group Co-chair
Former Program Director, Latin America

The Arduous Path to Restoring the Iran Nuclear Deal

Originally published in Arms Control Association

A change in U.S. administrations brought with it something rare in the often-acrimonious relationship between Washington and Tehran: a point of agreement. Nearly three years after President Donald Trump unilaterally exited the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), both sides concur on the need to restore core elements of the deal that have been sorely tested since: strict restrictions on and rigorous monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Yet, the shared strategic imperative of full mutual compliance remains out of reach so long as a tactical deadlock continues on how to achieve it.

An explanation of the convergence of U.S. and Iranian interest in reviving the 2015 agreement begins with a stocktaking of the state of play inherited by President Joe Biden in January 2021. Under Trump, the United States abandoned the JCPOA in favor of a “maximum pressure” strategy defined by a sweeping deployment of unilateral sanctions and a broad set of accompanying demands on further restricting Iran’s nuclear activity, halting its ballistic missile development, and containing its regional influence.[fn]“After the Deal: A New Iran Strategy,” The Heritage Foundation, May 21, 2018, https://www.heritage.org/defense/event/after-the-deal-new-iran-strategy.Hide Footnote The financial impact on Iran has been substantial, with the World Bank describing U.S. sanctions, along with the more recent global COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on energy markets, as a “triple shock” on the country’s economy.[fn]The World Bank, “Iran Economic Monitor: Weathering the Triple-Shock,” Fall 2020, http://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/287811608721990695/pdf/Iran-Economic-Monitor-Weathering-the-Triple-Shock.pdf.Hide Footnote

If the Trump administration had hoped Tehran would bend to its will, however, it was mistaken. In mid-2019, Tehran launched a counterstrategy, dubbed “maximum resistance.” Rather than concede to the administration’s demands and to demonstrate that what it viewed as tantamount to an economic siege would not go unanswered, Iran retaliated against the United States and its regional allies directly and through local proxies in places such as Iraq and the Persian Gulf. It also methodically breached its own obligations under the JCPOA on the contention that the evaporation of the financial benefits the deal had promised justified a reduction in its own compliance.

The cumulative impact of Iran’s JCPOA violations, which have escalated in line with a law the Iranian Parliament passed in December 2020 after the killing of a top nuclear scientist, allegedly by Israel, has been to substantially erode the agreement’s nonproliferation provisions in three different respects. The first relates to an expansion of uranium enrichment that cuts the timeline for producing one bomb’s worth of fissile material from a year to approximately three months; the most recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) quarterly report pegs Tehran’s enriched uranium stockpile at 14 times the JCPOA cap of 202.8 kilograms and at an upper enrichment rate of 20 percent uranium-235 instead of the 3.67 percent permitted under the deal.[fn]International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Directors, “Verification and Monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in Light of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015): Report by the Director-General,” GOV/2021/10, February 23, 2021.

The second concerns the verification and monitoring authorities of the IAEA, which under the nuclear deal is afforded JCPOA-specific transparency accesses, as well as access under the additional protocol to Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement. Iran suspended these authorities in February, although IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi negotiated a three-month “bilateral technical understanding” to maintain key oversight capabilities.[fn]“Joint Statement by the Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Head of the AEOI and the Director General of the IAEA,” IAEA, February 21, 2021, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/joint-statement-by-the-vice-president-of-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-and-head-of-the-aeoi-and-the-director-general-of-the-iaea.Hide Footnote The agency is also set to press Iran on outstanding questions relating to past work at undeclared sites during technical discussions scheduled for this month. Finally, although the expansion of uranium enrichment can be undone and IAEA access fully restored, the third area of concern involves ongoing nuclear research and development activities on advanced centrifuges and uranium-metal production that deliver, as the three European JCPOA parties note, “irreversible knowledge gain.”[fn]For example, see UK Mission to the UN in Vienna, “E3 Statement to the IAEA Board of Governors on Verification and Monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” March 4, 2021, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/e3-statement-to-the-iaea-board-of-governors-on-verification-and-monitoring-in-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-march-2021.Hide Footnote

The full article can be read on Arms Control Association's website 
5. For example, see UK Mission to the UN in Vienna, “E3 Statement to the IAEA Board of Governors on Verification and Monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” March 4, 2021, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/e3-statement-to-the-iaea-board-of-governors-on-verification-and-monitoring-in-the-islamic-republic-of-iran-march-2021.Hide Footnote