The US's End Run Around the JCPOA Explained

Withdrawing from the JCPOA has proven, time and again, to be one of the largest mistakes of the Trump administration.  Now, with the Arms Embargo on Iran set to lift in a matter of days, the US is floundering on the world stage with their demands of compliance falling flat.

Much of the reporting on lifting the Iranian Arms Embargo and triggering the Snapback Sanctions is cloudy and unclear.  Mixed with the incessant war drum beating, it can be difficult for those not familiar with US/Iranian relations to understand what is actually happening. Fortunately, it is much simpler than it appears when put forth plainly.

To start, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 nations.

The P5 are the five permanent member of the UN Security Council. These are the US, UK, France, Russia, and China. The +1 is Germany.

The idea behind the JCPOA was to guide Iran into becoming a nuclear power, while ensuring they were not pursuing nuclear weapons.

The JCPOA set up a system of checkpoints that uses guidelines and limits on Iranian nuclear development, as well sanction relief provided by the P5+1 nations.  As long as Iran operated within the guidelines, at each checkpoint they would be allowed to proceed in their development, while also receiving sanction relief from the P5+1 nations.

When the Trump administration pulled the US from the deal in May of 2018, they launched what has become the Maximum Pressure Campaign of sanctions. This violated the terms of the agreement as they were now placing more US sanctions on Iran than was allowed by the deal.  This was the first violation of the terms of the JCPOA made by any member nation.

Iran triggered the dispute resolution mechanisms of the JCPOA, starting a countdown process for a resolution to be found.  No resolution was reached in the six month window, thus the US made it's exit from the JCPOA.

Exiting the deal has cost to US the ability to access features that had been built into the agreement.  In particular, triggering the Snapback Sanctions to prevent the Arms Embargo from lifting. This can only be done by members of the deal.

With no egregious Iranian violations of the terms to point to as reason for keeping the Arms Embargo in place, the remaining members have no desire or legal ground to do so.

The US, realizing they can't pressure their EU allies still a party to the deal into triggering the SnapBack Sanctions, have decided to do a sloppy end run around UNSC Resolution 2231 to try wiggle their way back into the deal and keep the Arms Embargo in place.

UNSC Resolution 2231 was the UN's endorsement of the JCPOA.  This resolution and the JCPOA exist independently of one another, meaning had the UN not made it's endorsement, the JCPOA would still function as designed.

The US argues that being a member of the UN Security Council and a signer of Resolution 2231, they have access to the mechanisms built into the JCPOA.  This argument holds no weight and has been the laughing stock of the UN Security Council all year.

To put this another way, Chad was a member of the UNSC in 2015 and signed off on Resolution 2231.  Does this make Chad a member of the JCPOA who can trigger Snapback Sanctions?  No, and it is cartoonishly foolish to think so.  But with the US's logic, there should be no problem with Chad involving themselves in the deal.

Make no mistake about the US's permanent member status at the UN being some kind of golden ticket.  It is not.  Despite what the Trump Administration or the media in the US would like you to believe, the Arms Embargo will lift off of Iran in October.  

There is nothing the Trump Administration can do about this and that is a result of their own failed policy in regards to Iran.

Take care.

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