Contemporary geopolitics is significantly shaped by nuclear programs of individual countries, which often cause international concern due to the shifting power and potential political and military crises. Iran Nuclear Deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was an attempt to reduce the threat of increasing nuclear power in Iran, which is one of the major players on the Middle Eastern geopolitical map (Mozafari 119). For decades preceding this deal, the major political powers raised concerns regarding potential nuclear weapon development in Iran despite the claims voiced by Iranian politicians that nuclear power was used for peaceful purposes only (Mousavian and Mousavian 171). The tension increased, and it turned out that sanctions were not the best solution for addressing the problem, as they adversely affected all stakeholders. JCPOA signed between Iran and members of the so-called P5+1 including China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany was welcomed as the optimal step towards the ultimate elimination of the nuclear program (Sterio 69). However, questions regarding its effectiveness remain.
The foundation of the Iranian nuclear program was created in 1957 when Iran signed an agreement for civil nuclear cooperation with the United States (Mousavian and Mousavian 169). In 1958, Iran joined the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and then signed the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, thus vividly demonstrating its opposition to nuclear weapons production. Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty signed five years later confirmed Iran’s peaceful intentions (Sterio 70). Nevertheless, in the 1970s-1980s, Iran developed its nuclear program, supported by the United States, Russia, Pakistan, and China. The USA, one of the countries that initially supported Iranian program, later claimed that the Iranian civilian nuclear program was actually used as a cover for military nuclear weapons development (Sterio 71). There have been reports that Iran continued to build nuclear facilities despite sanctions and agreements, which pointed to the pressing need of reaching a consensus that would satisfy all parties.
Many rounds of nuclear talks between Iran and major political powers failed, mainly because Iran was reluctant to give up its nuclear program without receiving some benefits in return. Finally, the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) was signed in 2013, which provided for a short-term suspension of some parts of the nuclear program in exchange for decreased economic sanctions (Sterio 73). JPA built the foundation for JCPOA signed two years later, which, among other things, showed Iran’s readiness to decrease the stockpile of low-enriched uranium, stop the construction of new uranium-enrichment facilities, and make all its nuclear-related projects transparent and open for International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) monitoring (Mousavian and Mousavian 187; Sterio 73-74). In many ways, this agreement was an important step towards ending the nuclear crisis in the region.
Iranian politicians were cautiously optimistic about the new opportunities provided by the agreement because they were expected to entail the lifting of sanctions (Mozafari 119). Researchers and governments participating in the agreement claimed that JCPOA contains the most comprehensive measures on nuclear nonproliferation that have ever been reached, which makes it a major diplomatic achievement (Mousavian and Mousavian 192). However, there are concerns that JCPOA will not bring the expected results, especially after President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the deal (Laub n.p.). The climate of uncertainty following this much-criticized decision diminished the economic incentives that initially convinced Iran to sign the agreement. There are fears that the U.S. withdrawal from the deal will result in increased power struggles and may force Iran to break the agreement. Therefore, one may conclude that while JCPOA was welcomed as significant progress in Iranian nuclear program negotiations, its long-term effects may be limited.
- Laub, Zachary. “The Impact of the Iran Nuclear Agreement.” Council on Foreign Relations, 20 May 2018, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/impact-iran-nuclear-agreement. Accessed 25 Oct. 2018.
- Mousavian, Seyed Hussain and Mohammad Mehdi Mousavian. “Building on the Iran Nuclear Deal for International Peace and Security.” Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament, vol. 1, no. 1 (2018), pp. 169-192.
- Mozafari, Masoud. “Saving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action: Full of Hope or Just Hopeless?” The Lancet, vo. 391 (2018), p. 119.
- Sterio, Milena. “President Obama’s Legacy: The Iran Nuclear Agreement?” Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, vol. 48, no. 69 (2016), pp. 69-82.