The Abadeh site, which Iran razed in July 2019, is the Amad Plan’s Marivan site, an important test site responsible for conducting large-scale high explosive tests for developing nuclear weapons. This report provides an introduction to the Marivan location and its activities based on information in the Nuclear Archive, a significant portion of which was seized by Israel in 2018 and shared widely. A Farsi-language slide set from the archive obtained recently by the Institute, containing ground photos of a large-scale test, enabled the Institute to independently evaluate, geo-locate, and, in light of other Archive reporting, ultimately confirm the Abadeh site as Marivan.
The Trump administration continues its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, now with an attempt to restore pre-2015 UN sanctions, a right reserved for signatories to the nuclear deal it abandoned. Other UN Security Council members should disregard this gambit and urge Tehran not to overreact. [...] Conclusions: Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign has now been supplemented with a minimal diplomatic one – a futile effort to extend the UN’s arms restrictions followed by a disingenuous effort to reimpose all UN sanctions. Because the snapback procedures set out in the JCPOA and Resolution 2231 are airtight, the strictly legal outcome of a Security Council tug of war will be in doubt. But its political consequences ought not to be. By making clear their view that the U.S. lacks standing to trigger snapback, shrugging off its actions as meaningless and actively thwarting any step at the UN to revive the sanctions mechanisms, the rest of the Council – and in particular the P4 – can help sustain what is left of the nuclear deal. Iran, too, should avoid playing into U.S. hands by taking the Trump administration’s actions more seriously than they warrant. The Trump administration has made no secret of its ultimate goal, which is to bury the JCPOA once and for all. At this stage, there is one smart way to respond to its political antics: ignore them.
Undeterred by its humiliating failure to win U.N. Security Council extension of the arms embargo on Iran, the Trump administration has vowed to double down by pushing an equally unpopular snapback of pre-2016 U.N. sanctions. In the August 14 tally on the arms embargo extension, the U.S. gathered only one vote besides its own. And the Dominican Republic may have lent its support only to act as a polite host for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s August 16 visit to the Caribbean nation. Almost every other Security Council member, 11 in all, including western allies of the U.S., abstained, while China and Russia voted no.
The United States suffered an embarrassing diplomatic defeat on Friday when the United Nations Security Council rejected a proposal to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran, with even America’s strongest allies refusing to buckle under pressure from the Trump administration to take a harder line.
Biden’s foreign policy team appears united in calling for a return to the JCPOA, although several advisors have talked of the need for a broader follow-on agreement that includes ballistic missiles and ending regional conflicts, among other things. It is noteworthy that even if Biden wins, he will only have a short window to deal with Iran while President Hassan Rouhani remains in office, as the next Iranian presidential elections are in mid-2021. US sanctions and the Rouhani government’s poor economic record have already cost Iranian moderates control over parliament and the next president is likely to be a hardliner. Given that hardliners in Iran have long expressed their opposition to the JCPOA, Biden cannot gamble on a favorable outcome in Iran’s presidential elections. If he wants to revive the agreement upon assuming office, he needs to act quickly.
The report calls for narrowly defining U.S. interest in the Middle East. A policy in the region must focus on safeguarding the United States from attack and ensuring the free flow of global commerce. The authors contend that these goals could be accomplished by reducing the U.S. military presence, extending diplomatic efforts to secure human rights, and setting up a regional security architecture modeled after the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. […] Yet the Quincy Report, while vivid and well-framed, is highly ambitious. The authors’ aims are sure to be tempered by circumstance outside of U.S. control, as well as the limitations imposed by current and past policy. This is particularly true in the report’s call for normalized relations between the United States and its historical bête noire, the Islamic Republic of Iran. […] Yet if Biden triumphs, the goals of the Quincy Report will continue to face considerable obstacles. The barriers to improving relations between the United States and Iran may not be insurmountable, but they are certainly more considerable now than they were five years ago. The JCPOA may not rise from the ashes. And the current fraught state of U.S.-Iranian relations may endure even if Donald Trump exits the White House in January 2021.
Even compared to the party's own platform in 2016, the new draft marks a shift in attitudes toward Iran. Democratic Party platform maintains that "Democrats believe the United States should not impose regime change on other countries and reject that as the goal of U.S. policy toward Iran”. […] The final draft of the Democratic Party platform also calls for returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018 and subsequently the United States imposed new sanctions on Iran and called for a new agreement that would also constrain Iran's ballistic missile program, its military ambitions in the Middle East, its violation of human rights as well as its controversial nuclear program.
Two issues have dominated relations between the EU and Iran in recent years: the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – including efforts to conclude it, followed by efforts to save it – and human rights concerns. Even though the European Union (EU) and Iran have worked together over the past two years to save the JCPOA, relations between the two have deteriorated. Iran accuses EU Member States of not standing up to pressure from the United States of America (USA) to isolate Iran and of not doing enough to save the JCPOA.
The EU, for its part, is concerned about Iran's enrichment activities; growing tensions in the region and Iran's role in this context, including the provision of military, financial and political support to non-state actors in countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen; and its ballistic missile programme. In 2011, the EU put restrictive measures in place to react to serious human rights violations in Iran. These remain in force. Nevertheless, the EU has continued to engage with Iran, in marked contrast to the USA. Following the US withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018, the Trump administration re-imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Iran and has since then pursued a policy of 'maximum pressure'. The declared goal of the maximum pressure campaign is to push Iran to negotiate a new agreement that would also address Iran's ballistic missile programme, end its support of militant groups in the region, and curb its foreign policy ambitions in western Asia. Instead, the US policy of maximum pressure on Tehran has led to an escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf region, with potentially direct consequences for Europe. With Iran continuing uranium enrichment to levels far exceeding the levels permitted under the JCPOA, and with the USA threatening to trigger the re-imposition of United Nations (UN) sanctions against Iran, further escalation is likely. Security in the EU is linked to the security situation in western Asia. For that reason, Europe should maintain efforts to preserve the JCPOA and seek to reduce tension between Iran and the USA.
Sabotage attacks can at best delay—but not halt—Iran’s nuclear program. Worse, they could tip the political balance in favor of going for broke. The US intelligence community judges that whether or not Iran acquires a nuclear weapon is a matter of political will. If anything, it would seem Iran’s will is growing. Natanz is a declared site that is subject to frequent IAEA inspections. The destruction of the advanced centrifuge assembly workshop may tarnish Iran’s trust for inspections and push it to harden its sensitive sites or advance its nuclear program covertly. Acts of sabotage jeopardize transparency—and the prospect of keeping the nuclear deal alive and improving upon it in any future nuclear agreement. Seeking short-term tactical gains that undermine trust and hinder the long-term strategic goal of containing Iran’s nuclear program is dangerous and shortsighted. Diplomacy is the best sustainable and effective means of reaching a solution.
China’s Ambassador to Iran Chang Hua described the JCPOA as “an important positive factor in maintaining regional and global peace and stability” and urged the international community to oppose US unilateralism and its attempts to extend or reinstate sanctions against Iran.