On May 3, the U.S. Department of State announced:
Starting May 4, assistance to expand Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant beyond the existing reactor unit could be sanctionable. In addition, activities to transfer enriched uranium out of Iran in exchange for natural uranium could be sanctionable. Iran must stop all proliferation-sensitive activities, including uranium enrichment, and we will not accept actions that support the continuation of such enrichment. We will also no longer permit the storage for Iran of heavy water it has produced in excess of current limits; any such heavy water must no longer be available to Iran in any fashion.
This latest U.S. diktat amounts to a frontal assault on UN Security Council Resolution 2231 of July 20, 2015, which reads in part:
[The Security Council] Calls upon all member states…to take such actions as may be appropriate to support the implementation of the JCPOA, including by taking actions commensurate with the implementation plans set out in the JCPOA and this resolution, and by refraining from actions that undermine implementation of commitments under the JCPOA.
The Security Council adopted this resolution six days after Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the European Union agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This agreement was designed to restrict Iran’s nuclear activities while International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors look systematically into whether Iran’s nuclear program is “exclusively peaceful.”
Not content with ceasing to implement the JCPOA after the United States pulled out a year ago, the Trump administration is seeking to undermine the implementation of JCPOA commitments by threatening to punish others with sanctions.
The other state most clearly targeted by the diktat is Iran. Paragraph A.7 of the JCPOA stipulates:
During [a] 15 year period Iran will keep its uranium stockpile under 300 kg of enriched uranium hexafluoride…. The excess quantities are to be sold and delivered to [an] international buyer in return for natural uranium delivered to Iran.” And paragraph B.10 requires: “There will be no accumulation of heavy water in Iran for 15 years. All excess heavy water will be made available for export to the international market.
But the U.S. statement of May 3 leaves open the possibility that other states engaging in “activities to transfer enriched uranium” and activities that “support the continuation of enrichment” in Iran could be sanctionable, and that the storage of heavy water on Iran’s behalf will be punished. In other words, henceforth other states run the risk of attracting U.S. sanctions if they “support the implementation” of paragraphs A.7 and B.10 of the JCPOA.
It would be interesting to know whether this is a post-1945 “first.” On several occasions, the United States has turned a blind eye to a client state’s failure to implement the provisions of UN Security Council resolutions. But could this be the first time that the United States has threatened to sanction states for implementing such provisions?
On May 4, the EU High Representative and the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, and the U.K. issued a statement:
We.….take note with regret and concern of the decision by the United States not to extend waivers with regards to trade in oil with Iran. We also note with concern the decision by the United States not to fully renew waivers for nuclear non-proliferation projects in the framework of the JCPoA. The lifting of nuclear-related sanctions is an essential part of the JCPoA – it aims at having a positive impact not only on trade and economic relations with Iran, but most importantly on the lives of the Iranian people. We deeply regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the United States following their withdrawal from the JCPoA.
It may be that the reference to non-proliferation projects is intended to encompass the May 3 diktat. If so, this expression of concern is better than silence. But it is hardly commensurate with a frontal assault on the implementation of UN Security Council obligations.
What the situation requires is a Security Council debate and forthright condemnation of U.S. contravention of Resolution 2231.