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2015 nuclear agreement: How President-elect Joe Biden is planning to re-join?

The victory of Mr Joe Biden in the US presidential election 2020 is pouring hope in many for rectification of the mistakes that President Trump has made in his tenure. Iran vowing for a “quick” return to the 2015 nuclear agreement is one such ray of hope. But most of the analysts believe that lifting sanctions and rejoining the nuclear agreement would be a tough row to hoe.

What is the 2015 nuclear agreement? Why did President Trump pull the US out of the deal? And what challenges are awaiting President-elect Joe Biden in returning to be a part of it?

2015 nuclear agreement

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA); popularly known as 2015 nuclear agreement is one of the main diplomatic accomplishment of former President Barack Obama’s administration. In July 2015 Iran along with six countries P5+1 i.e. United Nation council’s five permanent members (the US, the UK, France, China, and Russia) and Germany; reached a momentous accord of JCPOA.

JCPOA aimed to limit Iran’s ability to make headway of nuclear weapons. In exchange, countries will lift the economic sanction imposed on Tehran, the capital city of Iran. As part of the agreement, Iran concurred to decrease the number of centrifuges – tube-shaped machines; which are used for enriching uranium. Along with reducing its accumulation of enriched uranium by 98% and limit uranium enrichment to 3.67%.

This way the country is able to produce enough enriched uranium for meeting the country’s energy demand but not enough for manufacturing a nuclear bomb. Under the agreement, Iran also agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which is the UN’s watchdog agency; to inspect country nuclear facilities.

Why President Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 nuclear agreement?

Iran and the US relations have not been good for decades, with extremely complex history both the countries have long been each other’s foe. The US has always feared what might happen if Iran succeeds in developing a nuclear bomb. Until 2010, Iran was putting great efforts in this regard, hence the Obama administration came up with the nuclear deal. After 5 years, the pact finally worked out.

A group of American leaders along with President Trump, still believed that the nuclear deal is not putting enough limits to Iran’s potential for making nuclear weapons. Reason being, the sunset clause in the deal, which says that the agreement will expire in 2025 and finally limits of uranium enrichment will end in 2030.

President Trump while stepping out from the deal in May 2018 said; “It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement; The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing we know exactly what will happen.”

While pulling the US out of the agreement, President Trump was accused of his unilateral decision by the rest of the P5+1 members. Since then Iran has again kicked started stockpiling enriched uranium; according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has accumulated approximately 12 times the amount of enriched uranium allowed by the 2015 nuclear agreement. The county has also started enriching uranium with higher purity than 3.67%.

What challenges are awaiting in re-joining?

President-elect Joe Biden has made it very clear that re-joining JCPOA is in his to-d-list after he takes hold on the US’s administration. But analysts believe that it won’t be easy.

In the past years, Iran has been rowing back in its own commitments. Even though Iranian Official claim they are ready to step back, all the advancements they have done in research and development can not simply just be undone. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iranian ambassador at IAEA says; “We cannot go backwards. We are now reaching from point A to point B, and this is where we are now”.

Further challenges are introduced by the worsening economic condition of Iran. The country says that just removal of sanction would not be enough, America needs to compensate for more than two years of cramped economy. With American’s divided opinion about re-joining JCPOA, Mr Biden’s own room of negotiation for Iran is limited.

Other hurdles standing in the way

Iran’s demands are not the only obstacle, other JCPOA countries which have kept the deal alive after the US could also play a major role in the negotiation. Furthermore, the regional states who were against the JCPOA; the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Israel and Bahrain have signed a normalisation agreement underwritten by President Trump, will also create hurdles in the re-joining.

Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador in Washington said; “If we’re going to negotiate the security of our part of the world, we should be there”. “Israel also wants to be at the table, with our allies in the Middle East”; says Amos Yadlin,  Israeli interlocutor, and director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.

But in the dark, Hassan Rouhani, the President of Iran’s words, “This government is criminal. Why do you want to exonerate it? This US administration is a criminal administration, it’s a terrorist administration,” is showering trust in the Biden administration; and for now, that is enough.