The situation in the middle east could get even worse, especially after frequent moves taken by Trump imposing sanctions and taking sharp moves. The rivalry of Iran and America follows long back, but things were seemingly settling down after Obama’s administration signed Iran nuclear deal. However, Trump dosed off the deal in may 2018, calling it “terrible” and “worst deal”. He faced strong opposition, as many fear that scrapping off the Iran nuclear deal is a pathetic idea as it is the only deal which is helping to de-escalate the tensions in the Middle East. But what exactly was the deal?
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2015 between Iran and P5+1 members- UK, USA, Russia, China, France, and Germany. The aim was this deal was to de-escalate the tensions related to WMDs in the Middle East concerned to Iran. Major points of deal were-
- Low-grade uranium is used for nuclear fuel reactor, but high-grade Uranium can be used for WMDs. Under JCPOA, Iran can not use high-grade Uranium, and the stockpile of Uranium of Iran was decreased to 98%. This ensured that Iran can not develop its own nuke.
- Under JCPOA, Iran agreed to redesign its reactors, so it can not produce plutonium suitable for a nuclear bomb.
- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is a watchdog committee for nuclear stability in the world, was given responsibility to monitor the Iran’s nuclear site and can ask access any location in Iran given that Iran grants the permission in 24 days, which under JCPOA, Iran will have to or punishable actions will be taken.
- All sanctions imposed on Iran previously will be lifted. This is was a major point for Iran as sanctions were a major problem for civilians and the economy of Iran.
In nutshell, deal stressed on de-proliferation by scrapping off nuclear programs of Iran and in return, lifting up all the sanctions on Iran.
According to any critics, Trump just wants to undo everything Obama administration had done, even if it is beneficial to the world. However, there are some reasons given by trump like deal falls short of its regional activities and its missile program. But with Trump’s inner circle which includes secretary of state and national security adviser, John Bolton, are all apprehensive of the deal. Whereas other P5+1 members are strongly in favor of the deal as there is no better substitute for this deal. Like Boris Johnson described, “of all the options we have for ensuring that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon, this pact offers the fewest disadvantages”.
While on 8 May 2018, Trump announced a withdrawal, other members maintained the deal including Iran. State secretary mike Pompeo laid out 12 demands for Iran to agree. These demands included to Stop processing Uranium, remove all the forces from Iran and end supporting Hamas, Hezbollah, and other VNSAs. Iran refused to agree on demands, and finally, the USA imposed sanctions on Iran affecting aviation and carpet industries. Further rounds of sanction continued. Things got worse only when in April 2019, USA announced Iran revolutionary guard corps as a terrorist organization. Iran revolutionary guards corps (IRGC) are elites of Iran military, contributed in the Iranian revolution of 1979. In May, National Security Advisor of the United States John Bolton announced he will send American Aircraft carrier strike group to the middle east to retaliate if necessary. After reviewing such a situation, Iran decided not to keep it’s enriched uranium limited.
War of words continued for some time and the USA sent troops in the middle east. Finally, first direct face-off came when Iran shot down US drone which according to Iran was flying over Iranian territory whereas the US claims it was flying over International waters. On July 4, royal marines captured Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, on suspicion of transporting oil to Syria, violating the EU sanctions on Syria. Iran refuses and threatens to seize British vessels in the middle east. Furthur tensions escalated when British vessels pointed guns towards Iran. On July 19th, Iran seized British-operated oil tankers Stena Impero and Mesdar, aimed to be released when grace 1 will be freed. Despite efforts of the USA to continue detention, Grace 1 was released on 20th August. Now all eyes are on Iran, to release Stena Impero which is still under detention of Iran.
It won’t take a genius to recognize that the situation in the Middle East can get even critical, notably after Trump imposed the latest sanctions on Iran, targeting Ayatollah Khamenei. This argument can be consolidated with the fact that whenever measures like sanctions are taken against Iran, the latter responds not directly but through proxies. When Trump sent aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, Houthis attacked Saudi pipeline with drone borne weapons. This attack signaled that steps taken against Iran will also ignite VNSAs like Houthis (a proxy of Iran). If Iran won’t responds directly to actions taken by USA or Saudi but will retaliate through its proxies. Thus, whatever measures Tehran’s adversaries are taking, must keep in mind Tehran’s reaction for the same.
(Note- Updates on the topic after the date of publishing have not been recorded.)