TEHRAN (Basirat)- A senior Iranian nuclear expert said potential renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) by the US constitutes a violation of the JCPOA, stressing that the Islamic Republic ought to show timely reaction and restart its peaceful nuclear program if the sanctions are extended.
"If any potential breach takes place, the Islamic Republic of Iran should dutifully stop its voluntary cooperation with the IAEA and restart its peaceful nuclear program. Iran can increase its uranium enrichment capacity to 190,000 SUW (separative work units) within two years,” Dr. Siamak Baqeri said in an interview with Basirat Center for Political Studies.
He added, "It will not be in violation of the JCPOA unless it becomes law. Whenever Obama signs the legislation, it would be a breach of the deal. In accordance with the JCPOA, the US president should not sign the legislation.”
The following is the text of the Dr. Baqeri’s interview. Q: As you know, the US House of Representatives voted for a 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) earlier this month to become law, but the bill has to be endorsed by the Senate as well and signed by the US president. In response, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said, "So far, the current US government has committed several violations with regard to the nuclear agreement…the most recent of them is the 10-year extension of the sanctions. If these sanctions are extended, it will surely constitute a violation of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and they (the US) should know that the Islamic Republic will definitely react to it.” How could the extension of the ISA breach the deal between Tehran and six world powers? Kindly explain. A: The first question that comes to mind is: What is the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) about? Also, it should be discussed that in what ways this law, introduced by Senator Alfonse D’Amato in 1995 to punish investments in Iran’s energy industry and finally adopted on July 16, 1996, violates the JCPOA.
The ISA initially was known as the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), under the 1996 legislation, and under ISLA Extension Act of 2001. But when sanctions were removed on Libya under the 2006 Iran Freedom Support Act, the nomenclature of ISA was used.
The ISA was adopted as part of a US plan to manage and contain Iran’s conduct with respect to its nuclear program as well as foreign policy. In fact, the Americans were seeking to press Iran to back down over its stances. They sought to hinder Iran’s ability to proceed with its nuclear program. Moreover, the ISA curbed energy investment in Iran. Accordingly, the US would punish firms and governments which invest in Iran’s energy sector. In fact, this law targeted our oil industry as well. Therefore, if the ISA is approved, no country or firm can invest more than $40 million in Iran’s oil industry for ten years.
Given the above-mentioned facts, the renewal of the ISA, which expires at the end of 2016, would contravene the JCPOA.
The JCPOA contains 159 pages and five appendices. Annex II includes a full and complete list of all nuclear-related sanctions. Under JCPOA’s 24th provision, the US and the P5+1 group of countries are committed not to impose sanctions or take restrictive measures against Iran outlined in Annex II and they should lift them in accordance with Annex V. One section of Annex II addresses the sanctions related to energy sector, which constitutes primary sanctions. Therefore, in accordance with the terms of the JCPOA, the US should not impose fresh sanctions against Iran or renew any law which will pave the way for further sanctions. Even, in accordance with term 4, which outlines sanctions related to investment in Iran’s upstream oil sector as well as oil products, the Americans are not allowed to renew the ISA which will violate the deal. Actually, extension of the ISA is exactly in breach of Annex II and the terms outlined under the 4th provision.
Additionally, this law also breaches the JCPOA’s 26th term which says, "The US Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions specified in Annex II that it has ceased applying under this JCPOA, without prejudice to the dispute resolution process provided for under this JCPOA. The US Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions. Iran has stated that it will treat such a re-introduction or re-imposition of the sanctions 14 specified in Annex II, or such an imposition of new nuclear-related sanctions, as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.”
Q: Will the US government use the ISA as a basis for action after the bill is approved by the Senate or Congress?
A: The US House of Representatives recently passed the bill, but must still be approved by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama in order to become law. It will not be in violation of the JCPOA unless it becomes law. Whenever Obama signs the legislation, it would be a breach of the deal. In accordance with the JCPOA, the US president should not sign the legislation. The question is: Will the US government sign the legislation? The answer is the US government may adopt the following approaches: Firstly, the US government may sign the bill as it did in the past and then claim will not use it to re-impose sanctions against Iran. In a similar move, the anti-Iran US visa waiver legislation was approved by the Congress and signed by Obama back in December. Later, Obama declared the law will not be implemented. Secondly, the US administration may neither sign nor veto it. If this occurs, seemingly no JCPOA breach will happen. However, according to the US rule of law, the legislation will automatically become law after ten days. And thirdly, the US administration may veto the ISA. If the president vetoes the bill, Congress may override the veto by a two-thirds supermajority of both houses. Then it will become law and will be in violation of the JCPOA. Here Iran should take reciprocal measure and react accordingly. Q: How should the Iranian government respond if the US violates the nuclear deal? A: Following the approval of the JCPOA (by Iran’s Parliament and Guardian Council), Iran set up a supervisory council on implementation of JCPOA. The council is made up of the Iranian president, parliament speaker, foreign minister, defense minister, secretary of Supreme National Security Council and officials like Saeed Jalili (a member of Iran’s Expediency Council) and Ali Akbar Velayati (a senior adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei). Through this mechanism, Iran makes sure that the nuclear deal is not violated by other parties. The Leader recently warned against the extension of the ISA for 10 years and said Washington’s plans to renew sanctions against Iran would be a clear breach of the JCPOA, dismissing the notion that it will not be new sanctions but renewal of previous sanctions.
But, unfortunately, the government did not take a firm stance on this issue and has adopted a ‘wait and see’ policy. The government has so far avoided to use the term "breach” for the possible US decision. Instead it has used the terms of "against” and "opposed”. This is while, it should be taken into account that, firstly the Leader has the final say on the country’s nuclear program, and secondly this is the Supreme National Security Council which should decide and say whether the move by the US will be violation of the deal or against its spirit.
Moreover, back in October, the Leader wrote a letter to President Hassan Rouhani and declared the 9 requirements of the JCPOA implementation. It was later approved by the Parliament.
All these mechanisms are back up plans to proportionately respond to a potential breach by the US of the multi-lateral nuclear deal. If any potential breach takes place, the Islamic Republic of Iran should dutifully stop its voluntary cooperation with the IAEA and restart its peaceful nuclear program. Iran can increase its uranium enrichment capacity to 190,000 SUW (separative work units) within two years.