0100 GMT January 20, 2018
Two years ago on July 14, Iran’s top diplomatic delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, reached an agreement with the representatives of the P5+1 after hours of face-to-face talks which led to the signing of a nuclear deal.
Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal became a subject of considerable controversy in Iran once it was signed between Tehran and the six world powers. It was perceived by some as a resounding diplomatic triumph, promising a bright future for the country and its people, while others deemed it a Pyrrhic victory that could lead to dire consequences for the nation.
The proponents of the JCPOA maintained that the historic diplomatic breakthrough marked a turning point in the country’s foreign relations which were strained in, at least, the past 11 years, as shown by pragmatic outcomes, and adduced a number of reasons for their claim – to be discussed in the following paragraphs.
Some of the criticisms levelled by the opposing voices against the Rouhani administration and the nuclear negotiating team are: First, the deal led to acquiescing to open Iran’s absolute right to having peaceful nuclear technology to debate. Secondly, the deal was unjust and made too many concessions. Thirdly, the negotiators trusted the US and overlooked the behavior displayed by Washington in similar situations and cases in the past.
Let’s put favoritism aside and take an unbiased look at pros and cons of the JCPOA two years and a few days after its conclusion.
Change in international community’s attitude
Willy-nilly, the conclusion of the JCPOA has changed the world’s outlook towards Iran. The international community has now believed that Tehran is willing to resolve its international issues and problems through dialogue. The international community has come to the conclusion that it is possible to settle an issue with the Middle Eastern country through negotiations.
Iran’s consent to the terms and conditions stipulated in the JCPOA has shown the world that the country has not been and is not after nuclear weapon, nor is it seeking to stubbornly pursue any goal which endanger international peace and security.
As a result, except for the US and Israel, there is a palpable change in the tone of world leaders when addressing Iran. They do not see the country as a threat to the regional and international peace and stability.
Foreign companies’ increased interest to have a greater presence in Iran’s 80-million strong market is another indication of the international community’s changed attitude towards Tehran.
This, perhaps, is the greatest achievement of the implementation of the JCPOA for Iran as it entails other advantages for the country and its partners as well.
Removal of sanctions
Western sanctions against Tehran intensified in 2012. They restricted, and, thus, harmed Iran’s foreign trade and severed the country’s banking ties with other states.
A few days ago, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, an Iranian lawmaker, said the nuclear accord has resulted in the removal of some 919 sorts of sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Prior to the intensification of the sanctions, Iran produced and exported close to 4 million barrels and 2.3 million barrels of oil per day, respectively, which plummeted to about less than 2.5 mbd and one mbd following the move by the West. For an economy heavily reliant on oil revenues, the drop was terrible.
After the JCPOA came into effect in January 2016, the sanctions on Iran’s oil sector were removed, which was followed by an increase in the country’s oil production and exports. Currently, Iran’s oil output and overseas sales stand at 3.8 mbd and two mbd. The country’s oil production and exports are currently equal to their pre-sanction levels.
The embargoes had also prevented Iran from importing pharmaceuticals, aircraft and aircraft spare parts. In the pre-JCPOA era, finding certain drugs was a herculean task. It had adverse impacts on the health condition of many Iranian patients. Following the implementation of the JCPOA, the sanctions banning drugs exports to Iran were lifted and the situation improved. It is pertinent to mention that the sanctions had some positive impacts, including the ardent efforts to produce the needed commodities at home.
Travelling by plane had become a perilous adventure for Iranians in the pre-JCPOA era, as the country’s planes lacked spare parts and were dilapidated and old.
The conclusion of deals with Airbus and Boeing for the purchase of about 200 passenger planes, some of which have been delivered to Iran, is another impressive achievement Iran has made.
Moreover, the lifting of the sanctions has enabled Iran to resume its shipping activities in international waters, insure its cargo vessels, recommence cooperation with medium-sized international banks and sign a large number of contracts with leading international companies such as French oil giant Total and car makers Peugeot, Renault, Volkswagen.
Unfreezing of assets
Following the imposition of the sanctions, many foreign banks froze Iranian assets. With the inking of the deal, however, a major part of the money was reimbursed to Iran in instalments. This process is still going on.
Exchange of visits
The JCPOA has also prepared the ground for the increased exchange of official visits between top Iranian officials and those of the developed countries. Since the clinching of the deal, President Rouhani has exchanged visits and held talks with the leaders of many European countries. Such visits have also been exchanged between other top officials.
During his stump speeches, Trump called the JCPOA a “bad deal” and after coming into power as the US president, he has made considerable efforts to rescind it – in addition to his other anti-Iran conspiracies in the region.
Although Iran has fulfilled all its JCPOA commitments and put limits on its nuclear program in return for the removal of all the embargoes, Falahatpisheh said some 245 other sanctions are still in place. This comes as over the past few months, the Trump administration has passed new sanctions against Iran. The US and the UK have also failed to live up to their promises under the deal, violating its terms and conditions every now and then.
What to call it?
As is the case with any other event or affair in life, no absolute verdict can be given on whether the nuclear deal was fully in favor of the country or has completely worked to its detriment. The deal is a combination of cons and pros.
While the US is not honoring its pledges on the deal, other signatories have voiced their supports for and commitment to the JCPOA. A few days ago (July 11), the European Union's foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said that the nuclear deal with Iran is an international agreement endorsed by the United Nations, adding it “doesn't belong to one country, it belongs to the international community”.
Also on Saturday (July 15), the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres stressed the importance of “sustained commitment” of all parties to the obligations under the nuclear agreement.
The US is only one country with one vote to cast on the JCPOA. There are six other signatories to the deal that are all willing to carry on with its implementation.
They say better the devil you know than the devil you don't know. In case Iran had not entered into talks on its nuclear program and had not agreed with the leaders of the P5+1, it neither could have learned about their opinions nor adopted effective strategies for the future of its nuclear program. Fighting an enemy in the darkness or with closed eyes is quite difficult.
Iran will always have the option and freedom of will to bring back the level of its nuclear activities to what it was in the pre-JCPOA era. Thus, in case the Establishment realizes that the JCPOA is violated by the United States or any other signatory, it will not hesitate to make other decisions about it although Iranian officials have repeatedly said Tehran is willing to continue with the deal.
Nevertheless, a prudent and sensible way to decide about the effectiveness of things is to see whether their advantages outweigh their disadvantages. Moreover, it is always possible to turn challenges and problems into opportunities in case of remaining cautious and creative.