U.S payments benefited Iranian Terror Proxies.
On July 14th, 2015, former U.S President Barack Obama signed the JCPOA with China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Obama and his aides believed that the United States’ previous policy of overwhelming sanctions against the Iranian economy was futile. From their perspective, these penalties only motivated the Islamic Republic to invest in their nuclear aspirations. The Obama administration also believed that they could not maintain a coalition of nations willing to sanction Iran without the JCPOA. As a result, the U.S began to appease Iran by eliminating sanctions and allowing them to participate in the global economy. The United States unfroze an estimated $150 billion in Iranian assets held in offshore accounts. The JCPOA enabled Iran to obtain these assets without much oversight on how to utilize them.
An additional $1.7 billion was given to Iran, including a $400 million payment using unmarked bills composed of various European currencies. The Washington Times reported these payments were used to fund Iranian terror proxies. Instead of revitalizing their ravaged economy, Tehran opted to finance Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. It is apparent that the JCPOA, to some extent, failed to implement proper safeguards to prevent Iran from financing terrorism.
Tehran’s Lack of Transparency.
The success of the JCPOA was contingent upon Tehran’s cooperation with the United States and the U.N regarding its nuclear development programs. In 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unearthed a secret Iranian dossier that contained information regarding Moshan Fakrizaeh’s involvement in on-going nuclear projects. Fakrizaeh led the Organization for Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND). In early 2014, the Obama administration declared that SPND was responsible for Iran’s nuclear research. The Trump administration imposed a series of sanctions when they discovered that 14 SPND employees and 17 SPND entities were connected to nuclear proliferation. Iran undermined the agreement by not disclosing the SPND’s activities. Which poses the question: How was Iran able to conceal this? The 2015 nuclear agreement is supposed to ensure that information pertaining to Iran’s nuclear programs is disclosed. Yet, this fell through the cracks. Netanyahu’s revelation regarding the SPND is an indication that the JCPOA is failing in more ways than its defenders want to admit. U.S officials felt that Tehran would be candid about its past nuclear projects. Instead, Friday’s assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh further highlights Tehran’s lack of transparency with the United States.
Iran’s Steadfast Defiance.
Iran has responded to Trump’s sanctions by producing more enriched uranium. Under the 2015 deal, Iran is allowed 300kg of enriched uranium. However, they now have 12 times the amount of enriched uranium afforded by the nuclear deal. The United States’ withdrawal from the agreement does not nullify the JCPOA as a whole. Iran’s breach of the pact, even with other P5 security council nations (China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom) still bound to the nuclear accords, demonstrates that they were never fully dedicated to abandoning its pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Had Iran truly been focused on improving its economic state– an issue they claim was of dire importance to them prior to the 2015 nuclear agreement– then they would not respond in this manner.
Failures of JCPOA cannot be repeated.
The 2015 nuclear pact’s constraints on Iran, which contain expiring “sunset” provisions, are only temporary. The agreement did not place a permanent ban on Iran’s arms transportation (the embargo ended on October 18th). By not having an embargo in place, Tehran is able to transport weapons to its proxies. Within the next few years, Iran can use advanced centrifuges to produce weapons-grade uranium. In addition, Iran is currently permitted to produce ballistic missiles. Precision-guided missiles (PGM’s) are the new weapon of choice for Iran. PGM’s are compromising the safety of our Arab allies. The Islamic Republic attacked a Saudi oil field using a PGM and plan on equipping its proxies with these missiles. This would be devastating for our allies abroad.
With that being said, Biden’s team should not return to the JCPOA. President Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy is hampering the Iranian economy. Oil exports are down, and the Rial, Iran’s currency, is losing value. By using Iran’s bad economy as leverage, the impending administration could force them to change its course without granting significant concessions to the world’s leading sponsor of state terrorism. A future nuclear deal with Iran should include permanent measures against their weaponry, force them to denounce terror, and incorporate more Arab and Gulf states in the agreement. Anything short of these demands would be diplomatic malpractice.