Amid the one year anniversary since the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1 powers, US President Barack Obama on Thursday praised the controversial deal, claiming its outcomes prove the agreement an “unmitigated success”.
The accord “succeeded in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program,” explained President Obama.
“All of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon remain closed, and Iran’s breakout time [the time required to make a nuclear weapon, given present assets] has been extended from two to three months to about a year,” Obama elaborated. “The United States and our negotiating partners have also fully implemented our commitments to lift nuclear-related sanctions, and we will continue to uphold our commitments as long as Iran continues to abide by the deal.”
“We still have serious differences with Iran, but the United States, our partners, and the world are more secure” because of the agreement, the president emphasized.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the JCPOA accord with Iran, also claimed success, though with reservations. Kerry acknowledged the deal’s first anniversary during his trip to Paris by saying it “has lived up to its expectations.” Kerry was in Paris at the invitation of French President Francois Hollande to join in the Bastille Day celebrations, which were later marred by the horrific terror attack that claimed the lives of over 80 French civilians.
“There are continuing issues” Kerry acknowledged. “Nobody pretends that some of the challenges we have with Iran have somehow been wiped away. This program was about a nuclear track and about a nuclear program. It was not about the other issues that are involved in the relationships of a number of nations in the region and the United States.”
The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), validated Obama’s and Kerry’s claims with reports that Iran has behaved in full compliance with the requirements of the agreement, allowing between 130 to 150 inspectors into known nuclear sites, and allegedly reducing its stockpile of enriched uranium from 12,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms.
Despite the evidence brought that could reveal the nuclear deal’s success, there are still too many gray areas built into the agreement that are cause for concern. For example, although Iran stopped operating the newer centrifuges, used in nuclear weapons, the agreement did not require any centrifuges to be destroyed. Today, there are at least 14,000 fully operational centrifuges sitting in storage in Iran that could be put to use at any given time.
The deal also requires the IAEA to monitor Iran’s known nuclear resources but does little to address Iran’s propensity for hiding its nuclear assets. UN inspectors may request access to suspected undeclared sites, in which case Iran may object. This initiates a 24-day process, after which inspectors may be allowed into the suspected site. Such a process has sparked sincere criticism that Iranian officials may utilize the 24 days as a means to cover any suspicious objects.
Some recent troubling developments raise even more concern about the deal’s future implications. Two weeks ago, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, said in its annual report that Iran has been engaged in a clandestine effort to acquire nuclear technology and equipment from German companies that would contravene the agreement.
Even if they are stymied in their efforts to acquire these technologies in Germany, Iran can still obtain them from other sources. The Institute for Science and International Security reported last week that Iranian companies previously sanctioned for acquiring illicit nuclear technologies are now obtaining these goods in China, a country which was also part of the P5+1 agreement.
Furthermore, Iran explicitly violated the United Nations Security Council’s anti-missile development resolution 2231 that bans Iran from testing ballistic missiles for eight years. In the last twelve months, Iran has carried out numerous illegal ballistic missile tests, the most recent of which was, ironically, launched on Thursday. Iran chose to celebrate the nuclear deal’s anniversary by launching its fourth ICBM test since the agreement. Luckily, the missile, capable of reaching Jerusalem twice over, exploded shortly after launch.
President Obama’s declaration of a full year of success is therefore considerably erroneous, not to mention significantly premature as Implementation Day, when the process of lifting economic sanctions against Iran, only took place in January of this year, a full five months after JCPOA was agreed upon.