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Iran Counters EU Threat of Snapback Sanctions

Tehran isn't out of cards to play just yet

U.S. President Donald Trump wants to destroy the nuclear agreement with Iran. He has threatened the EU-3 poodles in Germany, Britain and France with a 25% tariff on their car exports to the U.S. unless they end their role in the JCPOA deal.

In their usual gutlessness the Europeans gave in to the blackmail. They triggered the Dispute Resolution Mechanism of the deal. The mechanism foresees two 15 day periods of negotiations and a five day decision period after which any of the involved countries can escalate the issues to the UN Security Council. The reference to the UNSC would then lead to an automatic reactivation or “snapback” of those UN sanctions against Iran that existed before the nuclear deal was signed.

Iran is now countering the European move. Its Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced that Iran may leave the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) if any of the European countries escalates the issue to the UNSC:

Zarif said that Iran is following up the late decision by European states to trigger the Dispute Resolution Mechanism in the context of the JCPOA, adding that Tehran officially started the discussion on the mechanism on May 8, 2018 when the US withdrew from the deal.He underlined that Iran sent three letters dated May 10, August 26 and November 2018 to the then EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, announcing in the latter that Iran had officially triggered and ended the dispute resolution mechanism and thus would begin reducing its commitments to the JCPOA.

However, Iran gave a seven-month opportunity to the European Union before it began reducing its commitments in May 8, 2019 which had operational effects two months later, according to Zarif.

Iran’s top diplomat said that the country’s five steps in compliance reduction would have no similar follow-ups, but Europeans’ measure to refer the case to the United Nations Security Council may be followed by Tehran’s decision to leave NPT as stated in President Hassan Rouhani’s May 2018 letter to other parties to the deal.

He stressed that all the steps are reversible if the European parties to the JCPOA restore their obligations under the deal.

The Europeans certainly do not want Iran to leave the NPT. But as they are cowards and likely to continue to submit themselves to Trump’s blackmail that is what they will end up with. Britain is the most likely country to move the issue to the UNSC as it is in urgent need of a trade deal with the U.S. after leaving the EU.

Adherence to the NTP is controlled through safeguard agreements between the individual member countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which inspects nuclear facilities. If Iran were to leave the NPT it could still decided to continue its safeguard agreements with the IAEA and could continued to have its nuclear facilities under inspections. That would increase international confidence that Iran is not up to something nefarious.

Leaving the IAEA and ending its inspection role in Iran would then become a separate step the country could still take.

Trump would probably like it if Iran would end its NPT commitments. It would be used to allege that Iran was doing so to build nuclear weapons even if that were not the case.

If Iran were to leave the NPT it would no longer have any obligation to not build a nuclear weapon. But that does not mean at all that it would start to make nuclear bombs. Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa, a binding religious verdict, that prohibits the production or use of any weapon of mass destruction by Iran:

Khamenei has publicly emphasized that position (vid) again and again.

Khamenei’s fatwa is not his personal decision but a longstanding official policy position of the Islamic Republic. During the Iran-Iraq war Iraq’s Saddam Hussein ordered the use of chemical weapons against Iranian front lines and cities. Ten thousand Iranians died of those and many more were wounded by them. Back then the Islamic Republic still had chemical weapons which were leftovers from the previous Shah regime. But it refrained from using them as its Supreme Leader at that time, Ayatollah Khomeni, prohibited their use.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to press Iran with other petty measures.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had a personal invitation to speak at the the World Economic Forum in Davos. But when Trump announced that he would come to Davos the planned event with Zarif was modified in a way that led to his cancellation of the event:

Zarif had been scheduled to attend the gathering after receiving a personal invitation, his ministry said.

“They changed the original program they had for him, the program that had been agreed upon, and came up with something else,” said spokesman Abbas Mousavi.

“Either way, this trip unfortunately will not happen,” he told a news conference in Tehran.

In a tweet published later on Monday, Mousavi suggested that the change in program by the organizers of the Davos forum was “perhaps geared to have only one outcome,” and called Zarif’s absence a “missed opportunity for dialogue.”

It is likely that Trump demanded the WEF to take that step.

In another petty measure the Asian Football Confederation stripped Iranian football teams of their right to host their own international matches:

The Asian Football Confederation has reportedly banned Iran from hosting international matches based on safety fears over the current tensions in the region. Iranian club sides have responded by planning to withdraw from the AFC Asian Champions League. The clubs have said Iran is “safe”, while Iranian media and fans have claimed that politics, rather than security, is behind the AFC’s decision.Iran are one of the top nations in the Asian Champions League, and have some of the best supported clubs in Asia. Iranian clubs had a poor campaign last year, but the year before that, Persepolis reached the final of the competition. They, along with Esteghlal, Sepahan and Shahr Khodro, will withdraw from the competition should the AFC’s fixture ban not be reversed.

Iran suspects that Saudi Arabia pushed the ACL to take that step.

All this is part of Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran. His Special Representative for Iran recently repeated what Trump hopes to achieve:

Brian Hook forgot to ask for pink ponies. There is no chance at all that Iran will ever give up its ‘indelible right’ to nuclear enrichment or the missile program on which its strategic security is based. These unfulfillable demands the Trump administration makes are not designed to reach an agreement but to lead to a deeper conflict.

Source: Moon of Alabama

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