Months after United States President Donald Trump took office in 2017, he started to signal his intention to abandon the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the so-called Iran Nuclear Deal implemented in 2015. By October 2017, Trump made his feelings officials by announcing that the U.S. would no longer be involved in the certification process, which follows evaluations by the International Atomic Energy Agency; since then, tensions between Iran and the U.S. have increased, and a fresh batch of economic sanctions have taken their toll on millions of cash-strapped Iranian families.
Since American and Iranian diplomatic relations are mostly adversarial, it was not surprising to learn that European Union leaders have voiced their concerns about Iran resuming uranium enrichment operations at Fordow, one of the most advanced nuclear plants in Iran, and we know this because of a recent inspection by the IAEA. While some geopolitical analysts have characterized this move by the Islamic Republic as being a bluff intended to upset the Trump administration, the fact remains that the enrichment of plutonium could be more than a provocation; it should be seen as a direct reprisal to U.S. policy.
It did not take long for the negative effects of the U.S. jilting the JCPOA to spread beyond the confines of Tehran and the District of Columbia. The Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway for transit of oil tankers, has become a flashpoint where ships are boarded, seized, and sabotaged. The Persian Gulf has once again become militarized, and there are proxy wars underway in Syria and Yemen, two Middle East countries where Iranian and American interests have interfered since the beginning.
Along with the U.S. dropping out of the JCPOA, a new and damaging round of economic sanctions have been imposed against Iran, and the greatest impact has been felt by millions of people trying to make a living in Iran. Authors such as Middle East Expert Amir Handjani have written about how Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA has mostly hurt the middle and low-income class in Iran, a country where wealth and income inequality have increased to the point of becoming a humanitarian concern.
It should be noted that the JCPOA is not completely dead. The intention of President Trump was not to jettison the Iran nuclear deal; in his mind, the U.S. was not getting what he calls “a good deal” from the JCPOA, and he believed that unilaterally dropping out of the program would force the Iranian government to renegotiate so that the White House would end up getting better terms. Not surprisingly, this move has largely backfired, and it has brought about economic and political losses for many of the parties involved.
The remaining parties in the JCPOA, the European Union, China, and Russia, have declared their intention to continue supporting the agreement, which is not an international treaty, but it is considered to be of great importance for maintaining a geopolitical balance in the Middle East. With impeachment proceedings underway in the U.S., there is a chance that the JCPOA can once again function as it should in the near future.