Arms Control in Iran: Preventing a Full-Blown Nuclear Crisis

April 23, 2020

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Author: 

Tytti Erästö

Author's Title: 

Senior Researcher at SIPRI

Publication: 

The Clingendael Spectator

Related Country: 

  • United States
  • European Union

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) has eroded to a point where the return of the crisis seems imminent. The fourth episode of the Clingendael Spectator series on arms control highlights the continuing importance of the JCPOA for both nuclear non-proliferation and regional security. Worst-case scenarios can be avoided as there is still a chance to prevent a relapse to a full-blown nuclear crisis.

The 2015 Iran nuclear agreement appeared to resolve the international crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme. However, the agreement, officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has now eroded to a point where the return of the crisis seems imminent.

One year after the United States’ departure from the JCPOA and its subsequent re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, in May 2019 Iran began to reduce its commitments under the agreement, having stopped observing its operational limits by January 2020. Some US officials have been quick to portray Iran’s actions as confirmation of its continuing secret nuclear weapon ambitions – an argument that was the main rationale for their opposition to the JCPOA in the first place.

This article warns about the dangers of that potentially self-fulfilling prophesy, recalling the role that bilateral US-Iranian conflict dynamics and mistrust played in the pre-2013 nuclear crisis, and highlighting the continuing importance of the JCPOA for both nuclear non-proliferation and regional security. In addition to calling for renewed European efforts to safeguard the JCPOA, the article stresses the need for regional actors to take more responsibility for reducing tensions and promoting arms control in the Middle East.

Read the full article at the Clingendael Spectator.