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Iran threatens to withdraw from nuclear deal

Abbas Araqchi (Japanese Government Photo)
February 26, 2018

Iran’s deputy foreign minister threatened to withdraw the nation from the 2015 nuclear agreement, citing no economic benefit to Iran and major banks continuing to shun the Islamic Republic, according to Reuters.

“The deal would not survive this way even if the ultimatum is passed and waivers are extended,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, said this month in a speech at the Chatham House think tank in London, Reuters reported.

“If the same policy of confusion and uncertainties about the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) continues, if companies and banks are not working with Iran, we cannot remain in a deal that has no benefit for us,” Araqchi said. “That’s a fact.”

The deal with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States was originally a way to restrict Iran’s nuclear program in return for the removal of certain sanctions that severely impacted the Iran’s economy.

Big banks have continued to steer clear of Iran for fear of violating the remaining U.S. sanctions, and their fear and reluctance to work with Iran hampers the nation’s ability at potentially rebuilding foreign trade and investment opportunities, it says.

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Iran is not the only country looking to make changes to the deal.

President Donald Trump told the European nations back on Jan. 12 that they must agree to “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal.” He threatened to re-impose the sanctions the U.S. lifted as part of the deal if progress was not made.

The Iran nuclear deal was a major talking point during President Trump’s 2016 campaign, with Trump touting it as “the worst deal ever negotiated” and threatening to withdraw or decertify it.

Experts on nuclear proliferation have urged Trump not to abandon the deal completely. Last fall, Trump and Congress went back and forth with a bill that outlined a possible new position for the U.S. in the deal, but it was never passed. For now, everything in the deal remains the same.

However, even if Trump abandons the deal as promised or drastically changes the terms, Araqchi says the nation’s existing situation is still unacceptable.

President Trump sees three problems in particular with the Iran nuclear deal: a failure to address Iran’s ballistic missile program, the terms under wish international inspectors can visit suspected nuclear sites, and “sunset clauses” consisting of limits on the deal that expire in 10 years. Trump insists that those three issues must be addressed for the U.S. to stay in the deal.

Araqchi said Trump’s interpretation of the sunset clauses is wrong.

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“There is no sunset clause in the JCPOA. Although the U.S. Administration and Trump are talking about sunset clause and that JCPOA is just for 10 years, that is not true,” he said.

With much of the light shined on U.S.-Iran relations within the deal, Araqchi also reiterated that it goes beyond just the two nations’ own negotiations.

“For the Europeans or the world community, when we talk about maintaining the JCPOA and saving it, it’s not a choice between the Iranian or the U.S. market, it’s not a choice for economic cooperation: it’s a choice between having security or insecurity,” he said.