A new episode of war of words is being waged between Tehran and Washington over the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). A US-proposed resolution formally discussed at the UN Security Council on Tuesday is now at the center of the soaring tensions.
The proposal aims to bring the council members on board to indefinitely extend a contentious arms embargo on Iran, which will be effectively expired under the JCPOA and UN Resolution 2231 in October. Reacting to the US plan and the council discussions, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani issued a fresh warning to the White House. Rouhani said his country will not allow the US government to deal a “political blow” to the accord, and any such move will be met with a “firm response.” He also acknowledged the economic damage inflicted on Iran after the US departure from the JCPOA in May 2018.
In the Security Council’s virtual session — also attended by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif — members appeared to show little interest in the US plan, largely expressing support for the full implementation of the JCPOA, while some also urged Tehran to resume its full compliance with the accord. Since last May, Tehran has been walking away from some of its commitments, tripling the size of its stockpiled uranium but at no degree coming close to acquiring a nuclear bomb. In his televised Cabinet meeting, Rouhani once again moved to reassure the other signatories that “any moment they fully honor their obligations, we will also immediately return to our commitments.”
In its last two reports on the status of the JCPOA, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has raised concerns about Tehran’s decision to bar inspection at two of its nuclear sites. The reports triggered an IAEA Board of Governors resolution June 19, the first anti-Iran statement since the multilateral agreement was signed in 2015.
The Security Council meeting, according to Rouhani, also turned into a stage for yet another US political failure. The assertion was shared by various Iranian media outlets, even Rouhani critics, as they unanimously lauded the Islamic Republic’s diplomacy and its “legitimacy” in the dispute. Yet there were also growing fears about how the council will ultimately handle the US plan. Pro-Reform economist and former lawmaker Jalal Khoshchehreh called the US proposal a “tough credibility test” for the Security Council. Any approval of the US plan, he wrote, will be a “privilege” for US President Donald Trump, who considers the collapse of the deal a ticket to reelection.
Iran’s foreign minister, who has been engaged in unrelenting diplomacy to deter the success of the US plan, concluded his address to the council with a 1951 quote from then Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, who advised the same body to resist pressure from Britain, which was pushing to reverse his patriotic plan to nationalize the Iranian oil industry.