To Finally Kill The Nuclear Deal With
Iran The U.S. Will Try To Rejoin It
By Moon Of
April 29, 2020
On May 8 2018 the U.S.
ceased its participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan
of Action (JCPOA) or nuclear deal with Iran. The New
York Times now reports that the U.S. wants to be
back in for some
State Mike Pompeo is preparing a legal argument that
the United States remains a participant in the Iran
nuclear accord that President Trump has renounced,
part of an intricate strategy to pressure the United
Nations Security Council to extend an arms embargo
on Tehran or see far more stringent sanctions
reimposed on the country.
In an effort to force the issue, Mr. Pompeo has
approved a plan, bound to be opposed by many of
Washington’s European allies, under which the United
States would, in essence, claim it legally remains a
“participant state” in the nuclear accord that Mr.
Trump has denounced — but only for the purposes of
invoking a “snapback” that would restore the U.N.
sanctions on Iran that were in place before the
If the arms
embargo is not renewed, the United States would
exercise that right as an original member of the
agreement. That step would force a restoration of
the wide array of the sanctions that prohibited oil
sales and banking arrangements before the adoption
of the agreement in 2015. Enforcing those older
sanctions would, in theory, be binding on all
members of the United Nations.
The real aim of
the Trump administration is of course much wider:
calculations aside, the administration’s larger plan
may go beyond imposing harsher sanctions on Iran. It
is also to force Tehran to give up any pretense of
preserving the Obama-era agreement. Only by
shattering it, many senior administration officials
say, will Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President
Hassan Rouhani be forced to negotiate an entirely
new agreement more to Mr. Trump’s liking.
The idea is
idiotic and it will not work. There will be no
'snapback' sanctions and Iran will stick to the deal.
snapback option is part of the Dispute Resolution
Mechanism that is laid out in article 36 and 37 of the
JCPOA deal. UN
Dispatch has a
short description of
what it means:
signed this morning creates an eight member panel,
called the “Joint Commission” to serve as a dispute
resolution mechanism. The members of the panel are
the five veto-wielding members of the Security
Council, plus Germany, Iran and the European Union.
There are eight members total. If a majority (5)
finds Iran to be cheating, the issue is referred to
the Security Council. No single country has a veto.
And here is
where things get interesting. The language of the
nuclear deal says that the vote in the Security
Council would not be to reimpose sanctions. Rather,
the Security Council must decide whether or not to
continue lifting the sanctions. And if they fail to
do so, the old sanctions are snapped back into
place. This framing obviates the prospect of a
Russian veto, and it all but assures that if the
Western countries believe that Iran is cheating,
sanctions will automatically be re-imposed.
is no longer a participant in the 'Joint Commission' and
can thereby not trigger the process. There will also be
no majority which would then have to refer a dispute to
the UN Security Council. In its
Resolution 2231 the UN
Security Council also set out that only JCPOA
participants can trigger a snapback process:
acting under Article 41 of the Charter of the United
Nations, that, within 30 days of receiving a
notification by a JCPOA participant State of an
issue that the JCPOA participant State
believes constitutes significant non-performance of
commitments under the JCPOA, it shall vote on a
draft resolution to continue in effect the
terminations in paragraph 7 (a) of this resolution
That the U.S.
will now claim to be still a participant state in the
JCPOA will be seen as a joke by everyone who considers
previous remarks the Trump administration made about
ceasing its participation.
On May 8 2018
The White House published a 'Presidential Memoranda'
which was headlined:
Ceasing U.S. Participation in the
JCPOA and Taking
Additional Action to Counter Iran’s Malign Influence and
Deny Iran All Paths to a Nuclear Weapon.
In section 2
the memorandum orders:
Secretary of State shall, in consultation with the
Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of
Energy, take all appropriate steps
to cease the participation of the
United States in the JCPOA.
the press briefing on that day then National Security
Advisor John Bolton
emphasized that the
U.S. had left the deal and could therefore no longer
trigger the 'snapback' provision of UNSCR 2231. Talking
about a sanctions detail he said:
BOLTON: [...] This contingency has been posted on
the Treasury Department website since 2015 because
of the potential for the use of the
provisions of Resolution 2231, which we’re not using
because we’re out of the deal. [...]
Q But that
won’t be negotiated away during that — for those
We’re out of the deal.
We’re out of the deal. We’re out of the deal.
Q Are we
out of the deal?
BOLTON: You got it.
day the Washington Post published an op-ed by
opening sentence is:
Tuesday, President Trump announced his decision
to withdraw from the failed
Iran nuclear deal.
August 6 2018
Executive Order 13846
which reintroduced U.S. sanctions on Iran says:
I, DONALD J.
TRUMP, President of the United States of America, in
light of my decision on May 8, 2018, to
cease the participation of the United States in the
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of July
14, 2015 (JCPOA), [...] hereby order: [...]
weeks ago the U.S. special representative for Iran Brian
reconfirmed that the
U.S. is outside of the deal and can therefore not
trigger the snapback:
for now at least, to put to rest any speculation
that the U.S. could try to step back into the deal,
claiming participation despite the pullout, to
trigger the snapback.
out of the deal," he said when asked, "and
so the countries that are in the deal will make
decisions that are in their sovereign capacity."
these declarations and confirmations that the U.S. is no
longer a participant in the JCPOA the other parties of
the deal will certainly not agree with any U.S. argument
it is still in:
European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity, dismissed the strategy as pushing the
words of the agreement far beyond their logical
But the author
of the NY Times piece, David Sanger, claims
that the strategy could work anyway:
administration’s strategy could well work, even if
other members of the United Nations ignored the
move. At that point, on paper at least, the United
Nations would be back to all the sanctions on Iran
that existed before Mr. Obama reached the accord
No, it can not
work. Only participants of the deal can trigger the
snapback process. The U.S. is no longer recognized as
such a participant.
snapback can occur there are actually formal processes
in the 'Joint Commission' and in the UNSC which must be
followed. Those processes will not happen because the
other JCPOA and UNSC members will simply ignore a U.S.
attempt to trigger them.
members of the deal could still do that though. But the
Europeans are unlikely to take the U.S. side on this
issue. In January they made noise that
they would trigger the
Dispute Resolution Mechanism of the JCPAO that ends with
sanction snapback because Iran had exceeded some formal
limits of the deal. But Iran
countered that with
arguing that it was still within the deal limits and
then threatened to leave the Nuclear Proliferation
Treaty should the Europeans follow through.
did not want to risk that and have since shut up.
The clown that
leads the State Department will have to come up with
some better ideas.
Do you agree or disagree?
Post your comment here