Editor’s Note: Unfortunately disruption has made this edition of The Badger a little different. Unavoidable circumstances meant that this edition was delayed. Consequently, some of these articles are a little older and we haven’t been able to get the newest stories to you this time. However, we think that it is fair that those who wrote great articles have them published, and these important stories are read by you.
Words by Ritika Srivatsan, News Print Editor
The ‘P5+1’ bloc comprising of several world powers has gathered in Vienna to reinstate the Iranian nuclear deal. The bloc composed of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, Germany and Iran had previously reached a landmark agreement in 2015 formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The agreement entailed Iran dismantling large parts of its nuclear weapons programme and opening up facilities for international inspection in return for billions of dollars worth of sanctions relief.
What did Iran agree to?
Nuclear restrictions and extensive monitoring. Iran agreed to restrictions being imposed on the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, two chemicals that are commonly used in the development of nuclear weapons. Iran also agreed to limit the number and types of centrifuges (machines that refine uranium for its nuclear-related uses through spinning at supersonic speeds) in operation, the level of uranium enrichment and the amount of enriched uranium stockpiled.
Under the JCPOA, Iran was limited to installing only 5,060 centrifuges for use at uranium enrichment plants located in Fordow and Natanz, in comparison to the previous 20,000 centrifuges. Steps were also taken to ensure that Iran’s facilities utilised uranium only for medical and industrial research.
In line with the second part of the accord, Iran agreed to open up its facilities and allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to gain unrestricted access to its nuclear establishments- an attempt to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons in secret. The IAEA carried the responsibility of making quarterly reports and ensuring Iranian compliance.
What did other signatories agree to?
Sanctions relief. The United Nations, United States and European Union all promised to lift their nuclear-related sanctions and end the ban on Iran’s transfer of conventional weapons.
Why did the deal fall through?
In May 2018, then-US President Donald Trump abandoned the JCPOA, stating it to be “uniquely dysfunctional and divided”. Trump then reinstated all US sanctions on Iran in November 2018 in a bid to renegotiate the deal, the intention being to suppress Iran’s ballistic missile programme and control its involvement in regional conflicts.
Tightened sanctions crippled the Iranian economy and plunged the nation into a recession. Contending that the JCPOA allowed one to “cease performing its commitments… in whole or in part” in light of “significant non-performance” by others, Iran began breaching the deal’s restrictions in 2019. By November 2021, Iran amassed levels of enriched uranium that far exceeded permitted limits, including 17.7 kilograms of uranium enriched to 60% purity – close to the amount needed for a bomb.
The country also resumed restricted activity at Fordo and installed more centrifuges of a more advanced type after accusing the US of stepping back on their commitments and criticizing other signatories for accepting US unilateralism.
Renewed nuclear deal talks in Vienna
Talks to reinstate the JCPOA began after current US President Joe Biden took office in 2021, leading up to renewed talks in February 2022. However, the US aims to renegotiate for a broader agreement, whilst Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi wants Washington to return to the original deal.
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, indicated via Twitter on the 14th of February that the JCPOA agreement hung on US decisions. The current round of talks is expected to be the last with the different entities involved agreeing that an agreement would be reached soon.