The strategic action plan, recently approved by the Iranian Parliament in an effort to counteract US sanctions, is aimed at helping the government resolve the issues pertaining to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the P5+1.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, Shahriar Heidari, the vice chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, added the action plan reveals the extent to which the implementation of the international agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is capable of being resumed and also helps the government stop waiting for moves by Europe if the deal would no longer be implementable.
Signed between Iran and six major world powers, namely, the US, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany, under the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and endorsed by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 in July 2015, the JCPOA helped lift UN sanctions on Tehran.
However, in a much anticipated turn of events, the US withdrew from the agreement in May 2018 under an executive order by President Donald Trump and reimposed its unilateral sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
A harsh critic of the deal even prior to his entry into the White House in 2016, Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA and reinstated the sanctions on Iran as part of his “maximum pressure” campaign against the country aiming to bring Tehran to the negotiating table to work out a new agreement.
Still in place, the unilateral sanctions, the most draconian of all time, have mainly targeted Iranian oil and banking sectors in a bid to cripple the country’s economy. They have, however, proved ineffective thanks to Iranian people’s resilience over the past three years.
Disappointed at the European parties’ inaction and passivity and their incapability to fulfil their JCPOA commitments in the aftermath of US pullout, Iran placed on its agenda a phased reduction of its obligations under the deal. In January 2020, the Islamic Republic took the last step toward reducing its JCPOA commitments and announced that it would no longer accept any limitations on its nuclear activities.
Tehran has, however, frequently announced that it would reverse its steps if the other parties to the deal fulfill their commitments according to the agreement.
In an open session on December 1, lawmakers at the Iranian Parliament overwhelmingly endorsed the outlines of the strategic action plan to counteract US sanctions and safeguard Tehran’s interests.
The outlines of the plan’s draft bill were approved by 251 votes in favor, out of a total of 260. Later, the plan was also approved by the Guardian Council and notified to the government by Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.
Heidari said the plan will help the government stop waiting for decisions by the P4+1 (Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany) if there is no hope for the implementation of the JCPOA.
He added the Parliament’s move to endorse the outlines of the action plan compelled the remaining parties to the deal to take part in the 17th meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission, held through a videoconference on Wednesday, and resume negotiations with Tehran.
The Wednesday meeting was held at the level of Foreign Ministry deputies and political directors. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Abbas Araqchi headed the Iranian delegation in the meeting.
Following the meeting, which was chaired on behalf of European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell by Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Helga Schmid, a statement by the EEAS said, "Participants discussed ongoing work to preserve the JCPOA and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement by all sides in light of existing challenges."
It noted that participants also agreed to hold an informal meeting of the Foreign Ministries of the JCPOA member states on December 21 in virtual format.
Heidari said such meetings with the Western sides will be favorable if the negotiations are in line with the implementation of the JCPOA; otherwise, continuation of the negotiations solely for the sake of negotiating without any achievement will not be in Iran’s interests.
He expressed hope that such meetings would lead to the implementation of the JCPOA.
The strategic action plan, among other things, requires the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to produce at least 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium annually and store it inside the country within two months after the adoption of the law.
The plan also includes a provision requiring the Rouhani administration to suspend inspections of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) if the European parties to the deal keep failing to fulfill their obligation to facilitate Iran’s access to world banking and oil markets within a month.
Heidari said the action plan is a legal measure to be put at the disposal of the Islamic Republic’s representative, giving the government the power to make the other JCPOA parties understand that if the implementation of the deal is not resume within the one-month deadline, Tehran will put other measures on its agenda.
By approving the outlines of the plan, the Parliament sought to tell the other signatories that if they had remained committed to their pledges under the deal, the legislative body would not have proposed the plan, he added.
The MP stressed that the strategic action plan seeks to safeguard the interests of Iran and its people, saying the one-month deadline will not be extended under any circumstances.