Case Analysis 17 August, 2015

The Iran Deal and its Implications for the Region and Israel/Palestine

Yousef Munayyer

Yousef Munayyer completed his PhD in International Relations and Comparative Politics in 2015 at the University of Maryland. He is the Executive Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Previously he directed the Jerusalem Fund and Palestine Center in Washington DC. His opinion and analysis pieces have appeared in a number of mainstream publications, including the New York Times, The New Yorker and The Guardian while his academic writing has been published in the Journal of Palestine Studies.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the product of two years of intense negotiations, is a significant achievement in nonproliferation negotiations and the strengthening of the global nonproliferation regime. The detailed plan, signed on July 14, 2015 by Iran, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States), Germany, and the European Union, gives inspectors access to Iran’s “nuclear supply chain” for the next 25 years.  By the terms of the agreement, Iran agreed to dramatically scale back its nuclear program and to allow unprecedented levels of inspections. In exchange, it would receive relief from sanctions that had been imposed by the UN Security Council, the European Union, and the United States as “punishment” for its alleged noncompliance with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty)

Perhaps the most illuminating text in the agreement is the inclusion of specific provisions dealing with potential violations of the agreement--the so-called “snap back” sanctions provisions (Paragraphs 36 and 37). The provisions outline mechanisms through which multilateral disputes are to be resolved. Any actor in the agreement can raise concerns about violations, and resolution of the complaint can be achieved only if the complaining party finds the resolution satisfactory. What this means is that a single determined party can trigger the reimposition (“snap back”) of sanctions.  If this happens at all, the United States is likely to be the complainant. In essence, Iran agreed to provisions that put the power of “snap back” sanctions into the hands of the United States, forgoing veto protection from other participants (e.g., China or Russia). By so doing, Iran has placed remarkable trust in the United States, a country that Iranian leaders often refer to as the “Great Satan”: The willingness to do so reflects Iranian negotiators’  rational calculus, far divorced from the rhetoric that has often characterized its leadership. It reflects a belief that both US and Iranian interests are served by adherence to the agreement.

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