Why the US shouldn’t reenter Iran deal - opinion

Among the major flaws contained within the JCPOA are the sunset clauses, which have granted Iran an internationally recognized path to nuclear weapons.

PEOPLE GATHER around the water nuclear reactor at Arak, Iran, in December 2019. (photo credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
PEOPLE GATHER around the water nuclear reactor at Arak, Iran, in December 2019.
President-elect Joe Biden has indicated that he would have the US rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal. The JCPOA is an agreement that seeks to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon by placing restrictions on its nuclear program. However, it is imperative that the incoming administration avoid reentering the JCPOA, as the agreement contains many flaws that would fail to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Among the major flaws contained within the JCPOA are the sunset clauses, which have granted Iran an internationally recognized path to nuclear weapons. Under the agreement’s sunset clauses, key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire. For instance, in October 2023, the proscription on manufacturing advanced centrifuges is lifted, which will allow Iran to build centrifuges that enrich uranium at a faster pace than the ones currently in operation.
Beginning in 2026, Iran will be allowed to begin operating these advanced centrifuges. Likewise, Iran will no longer be limited to 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges that it currently uses for enriching uranium and will be able to operate as many of these centrifuges as it wishes. Iran having more centrifuges and ones that are more advanced will only shorten its breakout time to acquiring nuclear weapons. Furthermore, all of the limitations on performing research and development on centrifuges are terminated.
By 2030, restrictions such as reprocessing spent fuel, which can be expended for nuclear weapons, are retracted. Of great consequence, by January 2031, the constraints placed on the amount of uranium Iran can enrich expire. Along with this, the JCPOA’s 300-kilogram limitation on Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile will end, enabling the country to enrich uranium at a level greater than the currently permitted 3.67% concentration of uranium-235.
This is significant because once these restrictions on enrichment levels and production expire, Iran can, without any restraints, enrich limitless amounts of uranium to levels required for a nuclear weapon. Additionally, the restrictions placed on heavy water reactors will be terminated, which would allow Iran to build new heavy-water reactors that could yield enough plutonium to power numerous nuclear weapons.
Another problem with the JCPOA is that the inspections process is very weak. Contrary to proponents of the deal, the JCPOA does not subject Iran to “anytime/anywhere” inspections. Under the agreement, Iran has 14 days to determine whether to comply with a request from the IAEA to inspect a facility where suspected prohibited nuclear activity transpired. If Iran objects, the issue would be deferred to an eight-member commission made up of the P5+1 and a European Union Representative.
Iran sits on the commission. A majority of the commission’s members have to decide whether access should be permitted. If the commission decides against Iran, the Islamic Republic would be given three days to provide an inspection. This would provide Iran 24 days to conceal, remove or destroy evidence of any illicit nuclear activity.
ALTHOUGH 24 days might not be enough time for the Iranians to erase a large-scale facility, David Albright, a former weapons inspector in Iraq, said, “if it is on a small scale, they may be able to clear it out in 24 days.” The smaller-scale activities that Mr. Albright referred to include experiments that involve triggering a nuclear weapon, or constructing a small plant to produce centrifuges. Alarmingly, Iran’s military sites are off-limits under the JCPOA, enabling Iran to conduct critical activities in order to produce a nuclear weapon.
An additional flaw in the JCPOA is that ballistic missiles aren’t explicitly covered. Instead, ballistic missiles are addressed in UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The language of this resolution is much weaker than the six previous UNSC resolutions on Iran’s ballistic missiles, as it only “calls upon” Iran not to engage in any activity regarding ballistic missiles that are designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Previous resolutions mandated that Iran “shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” While Iran claims its missiles aren’t designed to deliver a nuclear weapon, eight of its 13 ballistic missile systems are able to deliver a 500kg. payload to a distance of 300 km. or more, which meets the international standard set by the Missile Technology Control Regime regarding the nuclear capability of missiles. Since the signing of the JCPOA, Iran has violated UNSC 2231 by testing more than 30 nuclear-capable missiles. Given that Iran doesn’t have a modern air force, the country would likely use its ballistic missiles to deliver a nuclear weapon against other countries.
A correspondingly troubling aspect of the JCPOA is that it provides sanctions relief for Iran and doesn’t tackle the country’s sponsorship of terrorism. Prior to President Trump withdrawing from the JCPOA, Iran received billions in frozen assets from sanctions relief. The influx of cash into Iran only increased its aggressive actions, given that it could provide more funds to its terrorist proxies.
Iran was also able to increase its military budget from 2016-18 by more than 30%. Conversely, after Trump withdrew from the JCPOA and imposed sanctions, Iran slashed its military budget by almost a quarter in 2019. Similarly, Iran’s proxies have been deprived of cash needed to fund their operations.
If the US signs onto the deal and removes sanctions, terrorism across the region and world will increase, as Iran will have the ability to adequately fund its proxies. Moreover, with the influx of cash, Iran would be able to purchase new conventional weapons since the UN arms embargo on it was lifted in October 2020.
It is for the reasons listed above that the Biden Administration must not reenter the JCPOA.
The writer is a recent law school graduate.