A former senior aide to ex-US President Barack Obama has rejected the narrative by current American administration officials that Iran is “violating the spirit” of a 2015 nuclear deal even as it is in technical compliance with it.
“This notion that somehow Iran is in violation of the spirit of the deal… There’s no spirit of the deal. There’s the deal, and Iran is in compliance with the agreement,” said Tony Blinken, a former deputy national security adviser to Obama and former deputy secretary of state.
“The IAEA, which monitors the agreement, has said that repeatedly. Ironically, so has the Trump administration,” Blinken added, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency by its abbreviation.
He was speaking to the American National Public Radio (NPR).
The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was reached between Iran and six other countries — France, Russia, China, Britain, Germany, and the US — in July 2015 and took effect in January 2016. Under the agreement, Iran undertook to apply certain limits to its nuclear program in exchange for the termination of all nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran.
But since rising to the presidency in the US a year after the implementation of the Iran deal had begun, Donald Trump has been actively seeking a pretext to potentially initiate an American withdrawal.
In the face of repeated IAEA reports verifying Iran’s full adherence to its obligations, however, US officials have resorted to claiming that while Iran is in “technical compliance” with the deal, it is breaching the wider spirit of it.
Despite all the rhetoric, the Trump administration has twice so far certified Iran’s compliance with the deal under an American law — although reportedly “reluctantly.” All indications continue to be that the White House wants to avoid a third certification, which is due in mid-October.
Blinken referred to those two certifications and suggested that an abrupt decertification on a third deadline would be absurd.
“President Trump has twice certified that Iran is complying. If he turns around in a month’s time, in a few weeks’ time and says they’re not [compliant], what changed?” Blinken said.
Trump administration officials have been floating the idea that they would want to renegotiate the deal to make the limitations on the Iranian nuclear program permanent. They believe certain provisions of the JCPOA expire in 2025.
Iran has been clear that the deal is under no terms renegotiable. Other parties to the deal, including European ones, have adopted that same position.
Blinken, who was himself involved in the talks that led to the nuclear deal in 2015, drew on his experience to highlight that reality.
“Iran was never going to accept these limitations in perpetuity. And in fact when the [former US President George W.] Bush administration put on the table the prospect of negotiating some kind of agreement with Iran, it too understood that Iran would not accept limitations forever,” he said.
Blinken said that, even after certain provisions of the JCPOA expire under the so-called “sunset clause,” Iran would still continue to be a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits the building of nuclear weapons.
Trump has said he has made a decision about the deal but won’t publicize it until the certification deadline arrives.