Updated: January 8, 2020 9:43:49 am
On Sunday, Iran said it would abandon limitations on enriching uranium, refusing to adhere to the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with six major powers, but would continue to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog.
The E3 group of countries — Britain, France, and Germany — have subsequently called on Tehran to resume its commitments under the deal.
Iran’s announcement comes after its top security and intelligence commander, Major General Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a US drone attack in Baghdad Friday, marking a major escalation in the standoff between Washington and Tehran.
US-Iran ties have continued to worsen since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran.
Relations between the two countries first became acrimonious during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which brought Iran’s pro-West monarchy to an end, and replaced it with an Islamic Republic. In recent decades, Iran’s nuclear program has been a major point of contention between Tehran and the West.
The quarrel over Iran’s nuclear program
When it was ruled by the Shah, Iran ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1970, and planned to expand its nuclear power.
After the Islamic Revolution, these plans were discontinued, and in the late 1980s, Iran established an undeclared nuclear weapons program called the AMAD project. In 2003, under international pressure, Iran halted the program, and signed an Additional Protocol to its NPT safeguards agreement, giving the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) greater powers in verifying the program.
In 2006, the US, Russia and China joined Britain, France and Germany to form the P5+1 group of nations trying to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear program.
In 2009, under President Barack Obama, the US conducted extensive one-on-one talks with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator.
In 2013, Iran and the six powers announced an interim agreement that temporarily curbed Tehran’s nuclear program and unfreezed some Iranian assets, setting the stage for extended negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear accord.
The Iran nuclear deal
Then in 2015, the Iran nuclear deal (formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) was signed between Iran and the P5 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council) plus Germany and the European Union. Under the deal, Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for relief from the US and other economic sanctions.
International businesses subsequently rushed to do deals with Iran, including billion-dollar sales by Airbus and Boeing.
In 2016, the IAEA acknowledged that Iran had met its commitments under the nuclear deal, and saw most sanctions on Iran lifted. Iran slowly re-entered the global banking system and began selling crude oil and natural gas on the international market.
After coming to power, President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise of tearing up the deal because it didn’t address Iran’s ballistic missile program or its involvement in regional conflicts, withdrew from the accord in May 2018.
After the US withdrawal, Tehran said it would continue to uphold its commitments under the deal. In June 2018, Iran announced it would expand its enrichment infrastructure within the limits of the JCPOA.
Then in May 2019, Tehran said it would cease to adhere to some of its JCPOA commitments, unless other members agreed to its economic demands. In July, the IAEA confirmed that Iran had exceeded its enrichment limits.
As 5th & final REMEDIAL step under paragraph 36 of JCPOA, there will no longer be any restriction on number of centrifuges
This step is within JCPOA & all 5 steps are reversible upon EFFECTIVE implementation of reciprocal obligations
Iran’s full cooperation w/IAEA will continue
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 5, 2020
On Sunday, Iranian state television said that Tehran would not respect any limits set down in the pact on the country’s nuclear work. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, however, has left room for diplomacy — “This step is within JCPOA (deal) & all 5 steps are reversible upon EFFECTIVE implementation of reciprocal obligations,” he tweeted Monday.
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