Why New US Sanctions on Iran Violate JCPOA

The new sanctions ratified by the US Senate to be imposed against Iran run counter to the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

A plan titled “Countering Iran’s Destabilising Activities Act of 2017” calls for the imposition of new sanctions on Iran under the pretext of Tehran having a missile program, sending arms to and supporting resistance groups (that Washington regards as terrorists).

Another reason for the proposed sanctions is baseless allegations of human rights violations, according to a Farsi report by Alef news website.

The US Senate approved the plan to slap sanctions on Iran and Russia on June 25, 2017. Countering Iran’s Destabilising Activities Act of 2017 received 98 yeas and two nays.

The act will also need to be approved by the House of Representatives before being signed into law by US President Donald Trump.

If the act receives final approval, the Trump administration will have to put in place new bans on individuals, companies and institutions involved in developing Iran’s missile programs.

If the act is given the go-ahead, it will be the first time that Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) is sanctioned by the US.

Earlier in 2007, the IRGC’s overseas division known as the Quds Force had been put under sanctions.

The lawmakers who have voted in favour of the act believe new sanctions are not in contravention of the provisions of a nuclear deal signed between Iran and six world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program. The deal is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The Countering Iran’s Destabilising Activities Act of 2017 was drafted on 23 April 2017 by seven Democrat Senators and as many Republican ones.

 

Nature of New Sanctions Act

The Senators’ new act, which is being signed into law, will ratchet up non-nuclear sanctions against Iran. Generally speaking, the act revolves around three points:

  1. Sanctions related to ballistic missiles:

These bans target individuals involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program as well as those associated with them.

  1. Sanctions related to terrorism:

Bans associated with terror will be imposed on the IRGC, specifically targeting individuals which are currently under sanctions due to the unfounded allegation that Iran supports terrorism.

  1. Arms sanctions:

These bans will obligate the US president to seize the assets of people or institutions involved in special activities related to the procurement, sale or transfer of banned weapons and relevant materials to or from Iran.

 

IAEA’s Report, EU’s Opposition

The European Union has issued a statement at a meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), expressing support for the JCPOA and confirming that Iran has lived up to its commitments under the deal. The union also called for more cooperation to reach an overarching result about Iran. The EU’s call for reaching a comprehensive outcome on Iran came as Iran’s envoy to the IAEA also stressed the need for efforts to arrive at a conclusion in the shortest time possible.

“As for measures to confirm that there are no undeclared [nuclear] facilities [in Iran,] the regulations of the protocol must be enforced, and we will try to shorten, as much as possible, the time required for the agency to reach a wide-ranging conclusion,” said Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA.

“Under the IAEA’s standards, the implementation of the safeguards agreement will enable the agency to corroborate that the declared facilities have remained peaceful. As for confirmation that there are no possible undeclared installations, the protocol’s regulations must be implemented, and this takes time,” Najfi added.

“As for other countries, even European countries, it took 10 years before they could get a wide-ranging result from the agency. It takes time. We hope we’ll be able to shorten this time as much as possible through efforts being made,” Najafi added.

The European Union has, time and again, underscored that all parties to the JCPOA have remained committed to their obligations under the agreement. EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini also said in Oslo last Tuesday that she was confident the US would make good on its commitments under the JCPOA. She said Europe would implement the JCPOA, with or without the US.

Moreover, some sources in the member states of the P5+1 Group have confirmed that Mogherini, the coordinator for the Joint JCPOA Commission, has received a new letter from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and revealed new details of the letter. According to informed sources, the letter mainly protests Washington’s blatant violation of the JCPOA, especially in recent months and after Trump took office as president. The letter also calls on all parties involved in the JCPOA, especially Mogherini, to make all signatories to the JCPOA to deliver on their obligations in order to preserve the agreement.

According to the same sources, parts of the letter refer to US measures, including its recent sanctions and some other actions on Washington’s agenda such the so-called S.722 bill (Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017) presented to the Senate. If the act is ratified and goes into effect, the letter highlights, the move will definitely be in gross violation of the terms of the JCPOA. Also in his letter, Zarif has voiced strong objection to Washington’s efforts to keep Iran from benefiting from the economic privileges of the JCPOA.

A new report by IAEA Chief Yukiya Amano was discussed at a seasonal session of the agency’s Board of Governors last Wednesday. Amano had already said in an address to the meeting that the IAEA is impartially continuing to verify and monitor Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA and in accordance with safeguards standards.

 

New Iran Sanctions Act in Violation of JCPOA

It is stipulated in the JCPOA that the P5+1 group must not take any action which would run counter to the nuclear agreement. Some former US officials also admit the new act runs counter to the JCPOA. Former US Treasury Secretary Adam Szubin said in a letter to Congress that new anti-Iran sanctions being reviewed at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will undermine the JCPOA and harm US relations with its allies. According to the ex-official, the sanctions will be regarded as contrary to the spirit of the JCPOA and trigger strong reactions inside Iran.

Seven other officials of the Obama administration, namely former Deputy Secretary of State Antony John Blinken and former National Security Advisor Avril Danica Haines, have already warned that the ratification of the act would authorise the president to take steps to undercut the nuclear deal, isolate the United States and jeopardise American forces.

Although senators have reformed two clauses of the S.722 bill that were in direct violation of the JCPOA, one of the clauses of the draft act is still in breach of the nuclear agreement.

Clause 5 of the act, which practically singles out the IRGC as a terrorist organization, would disrupt the trend of normalization of economic and trade ties with Iran. This would amount to violation of Washington’s obligations in clauses 26 and 29 of the JCPOA.

“The United States will make best efforts in good faith to sustain this JCPOA and to prevent interference with the realization of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting specified in Annex II. The US Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions specified in Annex II that it has ceased applying under this JCPOA, without prejudice to the dispute resolution process provided for under this JCPOA.”

Clause 29 of the JCPOA also stipulates that: “The EU and its Member States and the United States, consistent with their respective laws, will refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran inconsistent with their commitments not to undermine the successful implementation of this JCPOA.”

Richard Nephew, the lead sanctions expert on the US team during the Iran nuclear negotiations, told Huffington Post some time ago that since the IRGC is involved in a great part of Iran’s financial transactions, the new sanctions would discourage foreign companies from doing business with Iran, which, in turn, would undermine the pledge of lifting sanctions as promised in the JCPOA.

The US not only wants to impose new sanctions on Iran, but seeks to impede Iran’s trade relations as well. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made remarks on June 24, 2017 (just one day before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s approval of the plan to tighten sanctions on Iran) which run counter to the JCPOA. Speaking in a Q & A session of lawmakers, the official called on Congress to tighten sanctions on Iran and said the Treasury would rethink the issuance of permits to sell Airbus and Boeing passenger planes to Iran.

This comes as it is stipulated in Annex II of the JCPOA that the deal will “Allow for the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran by licensing the (i) export, re-export, sale, lease or transfer to Iran of commercial passenger aircraft for exclusively civil aviation end-use, (ii) export, re-export, sale, lease or transfer to Iran of spare parts and components for commercial passenger aircraft, and (iii) provision of associated services, including warranty, maintenance, commercial passenger aviation and repair services and safety-related inspections, for all the foregoing, provided that licensed items and services are used exclusively for commercial passenger aviation.”

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