Iran’s Zarif meets with European powers

Iran’s Zarif meets with European powers
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is currently meeting with his French and German counterparts in Brussels to discuss the nuclear deal. The meeting is taking place..

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is currently meeting with his French and German counterparts in Brussels to discuss the nuclear deal.

The meeting is taking place at the request of the European Union.

Background

Iran’s current nuclear program involves several research sites, two uranium mines, a research reactor, and uranium processing facilities. The country ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1970. Thus, its nuclear program has to be subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verification.

In the 2000s, reports began emerging on Iran running a uranium enrichment program in secret.  An investigation by the IAEA revealed that Iran had not declared a number of its nuclear activities to the group. Thus, the nation was subjected to multiple harsh sanctions from the international community. This has cost the nation billions of dollars (estimated $100 billion in oil revenues alone till 2015). It has also lost out on foreign direct investment.

On 2 April 2015, the P5+1 and Iran reached a provisional agreement that sought to lift most of the sanctions in exchange for limits on Iran's nuclear programs extending for at least ten years. When the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certified that Iran had restricted its sensitive nuclear activities, the UN sanctions were lifted on January 16, 2016.

United States and Iran do not have any formal diplomatic relations or ties. The two nations share an acrimonious relationship. In 2002, US President, George W Bush, referred to Iran as being part of the “axis of evil.”

 

Analysis

US President Donald Trump has been critical of the nuclear deal and has threatened to back away from it multiple times. He followed through on the threat and notified the US Congress in October 2017 that he would be decertifying the deal. The decision has been condemned by other countries including US allies like France.

In July 2017, EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that the EU has a responsibility to ensure the deal is implemented. She said, “The nuclear deal doesn’t belong to one country, it belongs to the international community. We have the responsibility to make sure that this continues to be implemented.” She has repeatedly been speaking in favor of the deal. She later noted, “There is no need to renegotiate parts of the agreement because the agreement is concerning a nuclear programme and as such is delivering.” She also referenced North Korea noting, “We already have one potential nuclear crisis. We definitely do not need to go into another one.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is currently meeting with his French and German counterparts in Brussels to discuss the nuclear deal. The meeting is taking place at the request of the European Union.

Prior to the meeting, EU released a statement noting, “The EU High Representative Federica Mogherini will convene a meeting with ministers of foreign affairs of E3 countries — France, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Germany, Sigmar Gabriel, and the UK Boris Johnson — and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Thursday 11 January in Brussels. The meeting will take place in the context of the ongoing work to ensure a full and continued implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” the statement added, using the official name for the deal.”

The EU, which played an important role in brokering the Iran nuclear deal and has enthusiastically championed it even after Trump decertified the deal. This is the first high profile meeting being conducted by a senior member from Tehran and foreign leaders after anti-government protests broke out in Iran. The protests, which have been described as the biggest challenge the country has ever faced, claimed the lives of at least 21 people.

Assessment

Our assessment is that EU is sending a strong message to Washington that the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers holds good. Given that the EU member states and Russia are in favor of continuing the agreement, we believe that US will find it hard to delegitimize it. European nations are probably also concerned that if the deal is nullified then it will be difficult to monitor the nuclear activities of Iran. 

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