How Should Iran React to Snapback Mechanism Activation?Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm
Given the US’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2018, Washington has no legal right to use any of the privileges of the nuclear deal, including the activation of snapback mechanism to re-impose UN sanctions on Iran and it is not entitled to use dispute resolution mechanism of articles 36 and 37 of the JCPOA or to make a complaint under the resolution 2231.
Yet, the US has made a complaint about major violations of JCPOA by Iran to restore sanctions of previous UNSC resolutions arguing that Washington remains a participant in the deal. The main question is that, noting the current situation and what will come next, what is Iran’s policy to face it or what it could be.
If Biden wins the election, the other signatories of the JCPOA will ask Iran to return to the negotiations.
Future of Nuclear Deal and US Election
All analysts and political parties absolutely welcome the isolation of the US and its disagreement with the rest of the world, particularly the European signatories of the nuclear deal, and seek possible extension of the current situation and expansion of the differences.
However, regarding the upcoming US Presidential Election, the disagreements could turn into a leverage against Iran, if Tehran will not take the initiative; if the Democrat candidate Joe Biden wins the election, the other signatories of the JCPOA, particularly the European sides, will ask Iran to return to the negotiations the way requested by the new US president and if Tehran rejects this, Biden will enact the previous sanction resolutions.
If President Donald Trump get reelected, the European signatories will face a condition in which Trump will took the power for four more years. That way the present serious disagreements will lessen after the election and the players, regarding their advantages and disadvantages in keeping their current stances, will ask Iran for further privileges.
Biden will gain more support from the international players to advance the US anti-Iran policies by reducing tensions with them.
Biden Threatens Tehran Interests
Given this, it is clear that Tehran’s lack of action will leave the initiative to other sides; practically, playing passively will not benefit us. Maintaining the current situation and protecting the nuclear deal until the US Presidential Election, due in November, with the hope that Biden will replace Trump, is a long-term strategy that Democrats and the JCPOA European signatories have tried repeatedly to instill in Iran from the very beginning of Trump’s term in office.
Regardless of the facts that the US strategy is the same under different presidents and they only differ in tactics, and that Trump and Biden have no difference in following sanction and confrontation policies against Iran as a single person does not rule a country and does not decide the policies solely, we have to take into consideration that Biden’s presidency can damage Iran’s united domestic atmosphere and nullify the first steps of the resistance economy, including reduction of independence to oil revenues that was fulfilled hardly, and restart the loop just months after Tehran has overcame the effects of maximum pressure campaign.
Furthermore, Biden will gain more support from the international players to advance the US anti-Iran policies by reducing tensions with them. As we know, the structure of current anti-Iran sanctions imposed by Trump, was designed and developed by former US President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Trump is just an inheritor of the structure and the mechanism.
Thus, Biden’s presence in the White House will have at least equal consequences for Iran, if it does not carry more disadvantages than Trump’s term. Taking a look at Democrats’ election platform also approves the continuation of containment strategy against Iran, which was in place since Obama’s presidency.
Iran’s Initiative to Snapback
Tehran can adopt an active approach after the re-imposition of sanctions as mentioned in article 13 of resolution 2213 by stopping implementation of all its commitments and announcing its withdrawal from the deal. This would also prevent any experience similar to Washington’s pull out of the JCPOA, which was met by mere political stances from the European signatories.
Such approach will also turn Iran into a decision-maker player in the equation; a player that will not allow the involved parties to use their disagreements with Washington as a leverage after the presidential vote and will instead pressure them to remove the arms embargo against Tehran in October. If the deadline for ending the arms ban is not met, Iran will withdraw from the 2015 deal immediately.
This way, the divide between the US and the other signatories of the JCPOA will be maintained and deepen to the maximum extent, yet not in a passive manner waiting for the result of the November vote. This policy will be part of a confrontation strategy. What is important is to consistently follow this strategy and pay attention to the policies taken in this phase.
This article was originally published in Persian at Fars News.
Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm
Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm is a journalist and analyst. He has taught at a number of Iranian universities and academic centres, including the International Relations Faculty of the Iranian Foreign Ministry.