The news involving Iran these past few days has focused on several key concerns. There is much speculation on whether Iranian retaliation for the deaths of Gen. Qasem Sulameini and Nohsen Fakhrizadeh (its leading nuclear scientist) is imminent. The theorizing is fueled by belligerent and provocative statements by Iran directed towards the United States and Israel.
On Friday, the top commander of Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, alluding to its two leading protagonists said, “Today we have no problem, concern, or apprehension toward encountering any powers. We will give our final words to our enemies on the battlefield.” This after a relatively prolonged period of circumspection by Iran.
There was also some dismay over the mixed signals sent to Iran by the Pentagon by its first ordering the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz – with its extraordinary firepower – to redeploy from the Gulf region and then abruptly reversing that order 96 hours later. While this maneuvering was taking place, the U.S. deployed a Tomahawk missile-armed submarine to the Gulf and sent B52 bombers within 60 miles of the Iranian coast.
Added to this mix was Iran’s announcement that it was about to begin producing uranium at a significantly higher level of enrichment than permitted by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is the name given to the nuclear deal between Iran and China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Germany, and the European Union. While the new level of production would not be sufficient to produce a nuclear bomb, it reportedly comes close.
We have seen much earnest analysis blaming the U.S. for these developments. Some experts say: How can Iran be blamed if the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from JCPOA? Why should Iran be bound by a nuclear agreement restricting its uranium production if the U.S. broke the deal?
For one thing, Iran didn’t just make a deal with the U.S. As noted above, there were many other countries that were parties to it as well. But such an approach also ignores the very basis for JCPOA. It was not a deal among co-equal parties with mutual rights and prerogatives memorialized. Iran was a supplicant seeking to avoid military measures taken by a unified world alarmed by its efforts to become a nuclear power.
Iran thus can hardly argue that it’s entitled to renege on its commitments because other parties may have withdrawn from the deal. The Iranian commitments were absolute and designed to forestall military action against Iran. Should Iran violate JCPOA’s terms, for whatever reason, its vulnerability to sanctions kicks in automatically. JCPOA was actually a safe harbor provided to Iran to know how it could avoid military attack.
So it is not necessary to discuss the reasons for the U.S. withdrawal. We believe there were ample reasons justifying it. But they are irrelevant in any event. Iran’s commitments were absolute.