In a move that smacks of desperation, the Iranian government is attempting to virtually hold the international community hostage to protect itself from U.S. sanctions. A year after President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA – known more commonly as the Iran deal – the administration has signaled its intent to scrap the waivers it had granted certain foreign companies to continue to do business with the Iranians.
In response, Iran said it would resume certain activities connected to its nuclear program unless other nations took measures to shield it from sanctions. Most notably, Iran wants signatories of the JCPOA to continue selling oil to the Islamic Republic in defiance of U.S. threats to sanction those nations for doing so.
Iran’s Threats Regarding the JCPOA
Iran President Hassan Rouhani is reported as saying: “If the five countries came to the negotiating table and we reached an agreement, and if they could protect our interests in the oil and banking sectors, we will go back to square one.”
Under the terms of the Iran deal – originally signed by the U.S., Russia, China, France, Germany, and the United Kingdon – Iran agreed to sell a certain amount of the enriched uranium and heavy water it produces in order to keep its stocks of those materials within an imposed cap. Now, the Iranians are threatening to resume the stockpiling of those materials.
Changes in Military Posture
In an unprecedented move, the U.S. administration recently designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization. This is the first time the U.S. has ever conferred such a designation upon the military forces of a foreign state.
In a further development, the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group deployed to the Middle East – the eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf. The carrier group is accompanied by a bomber task force. This comes a month after F-35 stealth fighters were deployed to the region, primarily to carry out strikes against dwindling ISIS forces.
The shift in military posture comes in response to concerns about the activities of Iranian military forces and their proxy, Hezbollah, in Syria. Israel has already carried out airstrikes against Iranian positions within Syria.
Explaining this latest deployment, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said: “[A]ny attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force. The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the deployment had been planned “for a little while,” adding that they “will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests.”
The JCPOA deal, while not a complete failure, was ultimately toothless since it contained so-called “sunset clauses” that would lift certain restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program development after a period of time. The deal did little to inflict any lasting damage upon the Iranian regime’s ultimate goal of developing nuclear capabilities.
President Trump has taken a far less compromising approach to Iran: Reduce the rogue nation’s oil exports to zero, which would be a fatal blow to Iran’s faltering economy. Meanwhile, there is little doubt that a number of European companies have profited greatly from continuing to do business with Iran and this may explain why France, Germany and the United Kingdom – along with the United Nations – have joined Russia and China in doing everything they can to preserve the Iran deal.
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