GANGSTER, CRUEL SANCTIONS: THE STORY OF THE JCPOA



In 2013, my solo traveling to Iran coincided with the visit of Emma Bonino (at the time Italian foreign minister) in Iran; in December, we were both visiting Tehran. While she was hosted in fancy hotels and got to talk with Rouhani and Khamenei, I was in a hostel in the proximity of the Tehran bazaar and got to talk with the Iranians hanging around the hostel and the tea sellers in the bazaar. I was excited because well, an Italian Radical is the first western minister to finally openly trying to deepen diplomatic relations with Iran, this is a win for us, bitches. The Iranians seemed to be very excited too, and news broadcasts gave huge relevance to the visit (I could watch the images, but not understand a single word, but the hostel owners painted a pretty positive picture of the news broadcasts regarding Bonino). It was looking like they had real hope that a new era was finally starting for them (note: since then the Italian Radicals have been forgetting their foreign policy line has always followed libertarian principles, and they founded this fully pro-American +Europa party, and they consequently lost their edge in dealing with Iran; Iran-Italy ties are now conducted thanks to the Italian business community. Emma vergognati, una macchia indelebile sulla carriera politica, proprio).



A busy market in Tehran. Winter 2013.

Fast forward seven years, and here we are. What a disaster! How could it all go so wrong? I know here many of the “enlightened” will say that, well, Trump happened. But really, is it all Trump’s fault or are we, as “westerners”, collectively antagonising Iran, putting her in a corner and giving them no other option than hostility?

I could here make my case in relation to the Superintendent; I could point out how, since 1953, they have been doing nothing but fucking with Iran, and from 1979 onward they have been launching themselves in the most egregiously demented political hissy fit in the history of political hissy fits; I could point out how Iranian officials and Iranian press claiming that the US shouldn’t even have military interests in the region, are not doing propaganda, they’re telling the truth; as if geographical maps are not a part of Iran’s Evil Propaganda Scheme™, the US is still physically located on the other side of the globe, and the Persian gulf is actually called Persian Gulf for a reason.

But no: I am hereby going to showcase how the EU, in full breaching of the independence clause of the Lisbon Treaty, is once again putting Washington’s interests and stupid geopolitical game ahead of Bruxelles’ own interests; I am going to delineate how we are in full breach of the JCPOA, and I’m going to give to the spineless European political echelon an example, of how a truly independent country would have dealt with Iran.


Let’s go!

The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) was signed by the so-called E3 countries (Germany, France and the UK) Russia, China and the US (and the EU’s foreign minister) in 2015. It was hailed as a landmark agreement, one which, according to the preamble of the agreement itself:

marks a fundamental shift in its consideration of this issue and expressing its desire to build a new relationship with Iran.

The JCPOA was not only, however, an agreement in between these countries; as the UNSC as a whole adopted and endorsed the JCPOA in resolution 2231. The statements of the various diplomats in the context of adoption of resolution 2231 are rhetorically interesting; as a bunch of countries just point out how the deal is made to control Iran; couple of countries say that everyone needs to chip in and respect the terms of the JCPOA (I wonder, were they smelling some foul play coming?); and then you’ve got the unsung hero of the situation (Malaysia) who says that “yeah, this is cool, but shall we talk about the fact that everyone should respect the NPT?”. But in any case, the JCPOA was then enshrined into a UNSC resolution. It was thus binding for everyone.


Busy street outside of Tehran's Bazaar

In the agreement, the E3/EU committed to a series of actions, in between which to lift sanctions on Iran, to allow Iranian banks and financial institutions to operate in the EU territory, to give Iran access to loans and insurances from Eu institutions, but especially, they promised they would have traded with Iran in oil and other natural resources. This would have been a godsend to the Iranian economy, as Iran is literally floating on oil and gas (the Pars natural gas fields are jointly owned by Qatar and Iran). In exchange for this, Iran had to accept to never try to build nuclear weapons, and they should have allowed international monitoring agencies (like the IAEA) to monitor them constantly. So, in other words; Iran accepted a reduction in its sovereignty (they gave up the right to build nuclear weapons ) in exchange for lifting of sanctions and trade. When the agreement was signed, this seemed like a fair deal to everyone; and in fact in the agreement we find sentences like:

The E3/EU+3 and Iran commit to implement this JCPOA in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere, based on mutual respect, and to refrain from any action inconsistent with the letter, spirit and intent of this JCPOA that would undermine its successful implementation. Senior Government officials of the E3/EU+3 and Iran will make every effort to support the successful implementation of this JCPOA including in their public statements[2]. The E3/EU+3 will take all measures required to lift sanctions and will refrain from imposing exceptional or discriminatory regulatory and procedural requirements in lieu of the sanctions and restrictive measures covered by the JCPOA.

Yet, already in 2016, the US Congress was already showing signs of bad faith, when both the House and the Senate in quasi-unanimity decided that the 1996 Iran sanctions act was to be extended for another ten years. Fast forward to 2018, and of course, Trump had, to the dismay of Iran, to destroy everything. Trump unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA, and reimposed sanctions on Iran (145 different sanctions were imposed on Iran over a two year period, for heaven’s sake, a hundred-and-forty-five). But there is more than the sanctions; as Trump banned Iran from trading in dollars and pressured the SWIFT system to kick out Iranian banks from the SWIFT system. The SWIFT system is the messaging system used by banks and other financial institutions while transferring funds; it is based on the dollar (the world reserve currency), hence it has been for a long time an instrument the Superintendent used to maintain global hegemony (for example some Russian banks had been banned by using it in 2015). So, if you are outside the SWIFT system and you lose the possibility of trading in dollars, you’re basically out of the game.


Mausoleum of poets, Tabriz, Winter 2013

When the Iranian market “opened”, some big institutions went in; but also European SMEs entered the Iranian market (Italian SMEs especially went in in great numbers, followed by German SMEs. And we reiterate and recall once again, that SMEs are at the core of European economy. Everything was going fairly smoothly; then the sanctions kicked in. Most SMEs went out, but few Italian ones decided to trade in euros and stay; but pretty much everyone else had to leave (there are, throughout Europe other companies who trade with Iran, but it is a very little minority, as far as I understand). In 2019, Italy's Unicredit Bank was made to pay a whopping 1.3B fine for continuing trading with Iran. The situation is so ridiculous, that a European bank who tries to operate in the framework of an agreement which is legally recognised by Europe gets fined by the US, and Europe doesn't do anything. I don't even know what to say to this. So we see already, that the behaviour of the Superintendent was not only wildly illegitimate under the international law aspect, but it was, once again, a move aimed at damaging European economy. Some countries got a waiver to still be able to buy Iranian oil until 2019 (in Europe, Greece and Italy had this waiver); Italy even continued to grant credit lines to the Iranian government (5B in 2018). In 2019 however, all the waivers were stopped, and even those countries, who tried to be honest with Iran, had to pretty much stop being honest and go back in line (even though it is clear that they still retain ties with Iran; they’re just hiding it, as they are worried their game to be discovered).


Now, if the EU would be compliant with the independence clause of the Lisbon treaty, this wouldn’t have been a problem for us - after all, not only we’ve got our own currency (Russia and China in fact both bypassed these secondary sanctions by trading with Iran in rubles and yuans), but with strong signals coming, of the dollar’s supremacy getting closer and closer to its end, if we’d be independent we’d be thinking on how to get the euro (currency of which Russia has increased in her forex reserves) to become the next world reserve currency, for example - and this would have been a golden occasion to advance our European interests. But alas, a Europe lead by the Very Good Vassals would never, and I say never, disobey to their Master; hence instead of doing anything, we have just bullshitted the Iranians to their faces.

A bunch of Very Good Vassals (Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and Denmark) in order to be able to look good while de facto subjugating and bullshitting Iran to her face, claimed that they were building INSTEX, a financial instrument which would have allowed financial transactions with Iran to be processed entirely in euro, and entirely inside the EU’s territory - hence an instrument which would have allowed the EU to come back into compliance with the JCPOA (we recall how the agreement said that the EU was to trade with Iran in exchange for Iran not developing nuclear weapons). INSTEX was proposed in January 2019; it processed its first and (basically) only transaction in March 2020. The mechanism might have facilitated some humanitarian trade (some Western outlets claim so, but I haven’t seen any proof of this myself, so I doubt that this is even true, given Germany and the UK’s practice of systematically lying), but it’s still insufficient to make Europe compliant with the terms of the JCPOA. So, as of now, we might be going around telling Iran that we want to be honest to them, but everyone knows, that we’re full of shit. Even more so because INSTEX would have been apparently used to trade in humanitarian goods with Iran, and thus the EU would still have been non-compliant with the JCPOA, as in the text it is clearly stated that:

19. The EU will terminate all provisions of the EU Regulation, as subsequently amended, implementing all nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions, including related designations, simultaneously with the IAEA-verified implementation of agreed nuclear-related measures by Iran as specified in Annex V, which cover all sanctions and restrictive measures in the following areas, as described in Annex II:

[…]

viii. Import and transport of Iranian oil, petroleum products, gas and petrochemical products;

So you see, that INSTEX wouldn’t still have made the EU compliant. So here we can fully understand how false the Very Good Vassals are (Italy for example, who has a good relation with Iran, did not take part in INSTEX, as it is clear, that they didn't believe it would work). Don’t you have even a little bit of shame? You keep on just lying and breaking your word, in a time when “Western” hegemony is fairly obviously about to draw to its close. Do you really think you can just keep on getting your way by murdering civilians abroad and accusing everyone who criticise you of being a Russian? The level of political idiocy and lack of foresight is really too much to bear here.

In regards to INSTEX, it is also interesting to note that Russia had been declaring that if INSTEX would have been operational, they would have joined - again, Russia is constantly trying to be nice to us, and we’re always turning them away. Plus, Russia was here, IMHO, giving us the hint, that they’d be “supporting” the euro, in the (now probable) event of the fall of the dollar; as China is already thinking to get in there with the digital yuan, but we don’t know, how well does Russia see the idea that hegemonic power would just switch from one side of the ocean to the other, as they might eventually find themselves in an uncomfortable position (and this doesn’t mean that they’re not good partners, because they are, but I don’t know how much the Russians like power to be completely concentrated in one country’s hands - and I don’t even mean to say that Europe should oppose China, as China is not an enemy, either, obviously). Becoming the world reserve currency, if it wasn't obvious, would be very good for Europe, but it would be a disaster for the US. So once again, Europe's interests are subordinated to Washington's interests by our own unelected leadership.


Some food and sweets. The yellow spice is saffron, a spice which is more expensive than gold. The sweets are from Yadz, and they're apparently famous all over the country. They were very delicious, I can tell you that. Winter 2013/14.

In this sense the Vassals blackmailed Iran, as they told Iran “we’re going to maintain ties with you only if you respect the JCPOA, while we can keep on being fully non-compliant”; and this rhetoric found its maximum apex with Pekka Haavisto pretty much spelling this out loud during a visit to Iran in December 2019 (during the American term of the presidency of the EU - ups, sorry I mean the Finnish term of the presidency of the EU, it’s easy to mistake the two countries really). It is interesting how everyone in Europe believes the tale of the “Finnish honesty” - I am quite sure everyone outside of the EU knows we’re just a bunch of filthy liars and subjugators. On top of this sanctions over Iran have kept on piling up; during the pandemic, the Superintendent's sanctions have severely impacted the flow of medical goods getting into Iran - I don’t even know how doesn’t this by itself amount to some kind of genocidal crime, as targeting medical goods during a pandemic literally means targeting the population of Iran. Russia of course, got that, Borrell, are you taking notes?

This behaviour has, once again, two ramifications; in primis, we’re once again damaging our own economy so that the Superintendent can keep its knee on our necks; and in a second instance, we’re yet again ruining our international reputation as a trading bloc. Germany can go around as much as she wants talking about “German investments and German gestalt” to developing countries; but I’m quite confident everyone looked at how you dealt with Iran, how you dealt with Greece, and everyone knows, that Occupied Europe is not going to keep their commitments, and that Europe doesn’t care about populations in far away lands, when they don’t even care about the “inferior” Southern and Central European people.

And of course this would have been a matter of the utmost importance to have settled independently; as it is not at all sure, that even if Biden would win, the US would go back to be a party of the JCPOA (either for lack of will or time). Moreover, with elections in Iran happening next year, it is very possible that hardliners could be elected; and do you think they’ll care about the EU’s good intentions and glistening lies? I think they won’t care about it at all. And this is sad, because Iran is not an aggressive country at all; they don’t want any wars, they don’t want any conflict, they just want to be treated fairly - and they’re never being treated fairly. And if you keep fucking them over, then they might eventually elect some true hardliner who doesn’t care about starting wars - but that will be the West’s fault, not Iran’s fault, because we’re dragging them in a confrontation they do NOT want. We’re signing agreements which we have no intentions of respecting. We’re treating them as the enemy, when they are most definitely not our enemy, and they could easily be our friends if we’d just stop fucking them over to please the Superintendent.


UNESCO site Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan (view on the famous Mosque Lotfollah). Winter 2014.

In the most recent development of the ordeal, the United States, who unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018, declared that Iran was non-compliant in its nuclear commitments, and acted under the “snapback” provision of UN resolution 2231. In easy terms, the UNSC resolution provided for a way for countries to get out of the agreement if Iran was non-compliant with the provisions of the JCPOA. Once one country triggers the mechanism, there are thirty days for the “non-compliant” party to get back into compliance; after that, sanctions can be reimposed. So the 20th of August 2020, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo triggered this mechanism. Now, we need to note in primis how goddamn ridiculous and pathetic Pompeo looked to the whole of the international community. The US withdrew from the agreement in 2018; hence one would think that it’d be obvious to them in primis, that you can’t be part of an agreement you yourself quit. This is just basic common sense, isn’t it? But no, American exceptionalism doesn’t apparently stop with the (apparently God given) right of systematically torturing civilians in the Middle East, it continues with dictating terms and being part of agreements they themselves quit. In any case; the US tried to present itself as a part of the agreement they quit (they seem to be claiming that resolution 2231 is not related to the JCPOA? I’m quite confused myself on the exact reasoning behind their claim, as it is so convoluted and obviously going against basic reality); they presented the motion to the UNSC and they were massively humiliated in a 13 to 2 vote.

Before we go on with speculating on what might happen in this regard, we need to analyse the claim of Iranian non-compliance with the JCPOA. We’ll outline briefly the whole relationship in between Iran and the IAEA; and as we will see, Iran started scaling back to its commitments only in response to American withdrawal and European non-compliance from the JCPOA, and in compliance with the agreement itself. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) was tasked by the UNSC with controlling Iran’s compliance to the JCPOA, in terms of controlling and inspecting Iran’s nuclear facilities. Up to 2013, Iran was very guarded with its nuclear program, but since the election of Hassan Rouhani, they started to cooperate with the international community increasingly more and more. This cooperation culminated, as we saw, with the signing of the JCPOA. Iran, in this sense, it is basically one of the most controlled nations on earth for what concerns their nuclear energy development activity.

In 2015 the IAEA and Iran signed a road map for joint cooperation. In September 2015 the IAEA started their work in Iran; they visited the Parchin facility and took samples. As of September 2015, the cooperation was going well. In January 2016, IAEA director Amano’s statement read as follows:

Today, I released a report confirming that Iran has completed the necessary preparatory steps to start the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. […] It was issued after Agency inspectors on the ground verified that Iran has carried out all measures required under the JCPOA to enable Implementation Day to occur.

So everything was going well in 2016. In 2017, Amano stated, during a visit to Harvard University:

Today, he said, the combination of the CSA, the AP and additional transparency measures under the JCPOA represents “the most robust verification system in existence anywhere in the world.”

So you see? Iran, according to the Director General of the IAEA (the world leading institution in atomic energy control) was literally the most controlled nation on earth, for war concerned its nuclear program. And then, we come to 2018; the year the US decided to recklessly and unilaterally withdraw from the JCPOA. The first of May 2018, the IAEA released a report on Iran:

In the report, the Agency assessed that, before the end of 2003, an organizational structure was in place in Iran suitable for the coordination of a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. Although some activities took place after 2003, they were not part of a coordinated effort.

[...]

The same report stated that the Agency had no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009.

So here, when the IAEA was getting the hint that the US was up to no good, is commenting on a report where they clearly point out how, notwithstanding Iran’s actions in 2003, it is since 2009 that Iran is not pursuing nuclear energy related activity which could have been related to the creation of a nuclear weapon.

The 9th of May, the day after the US’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, the IAEA stated:

The IAEA is closely following developments related to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). As requested by the United Nations Security Council and authorised by the IAEA Board of Governors in 2015, the IAEA is verifying and monitoring Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. Iran is subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime under the JCPOA, which is a significant verification gain. As of today, the IAEA can confirm that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented by Iran.

So on May 9th, 2018, Iran was fully compliant to its commitments; while the US withdrew from the JCPOA and the Europeans started to be in full non-compliance with their own commitments to the JCPOA (as the secondary effect of the sanctions sanctions prevented Europe from trading with Iran, fact which didn’t bother the US at all, because they don’t care if European economy gets hit - we (as in, our own leadership) should care about European interests. A year after the US withdrawal and European non-compliance, Iran’s President released a statement with which he gave 60 days to all of the remaining parties to the JCPOA to get back in compliance with the terms of the agreement:

[...] During this time, the Joint Commission of JCPOA has been held two times at the level of deputies and two times at the level of foreign ministers, and the remaining countries have explicitly stated in these meetings that the lift of sanctions and Iran’s enjoying of its economic benefits were a critical part of the JCPOA. They promised to design “practical solutions” to normalise and promote economic cooperation with Iran.
Unfortunately, the goodwill and wise self-restraint of the Iranian people have remained unanswered, and no operational mechanisms have been set up to compensate for US sanctions except for the issuance of political statements. Therefore, in order to secure its rights and restore balance to the demands of the parties to the agreement, the Islamic Republic of Iran has no option other than "reducing commitments".

And while Iran’s actions have been represented by the media as an ulterior proof of Iran being dangerous and erratic, when they are put into context, they do look, in fact, logical. How long is your energy provider going to supply your house with electricity after you stopped paying your bills? Why are we expecting Iran to be fully compliant to an agreement we’re not respecting ourselves?


And there is more than this; And in fact, in the text of the JCPOA we find out that Iran had already stated, when signing the contract, that in the case of other parties’ non-compliance, they would reserve the right o scale back their own commitments (point 26):

[...] Iran has stated that it will treat such a re-introduction or re-imposition of the sanctions specified in Annex II, or such an imposition of new nuclear-related sanctions, as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.

So we see, that Iran scaling down from its commitments is not only logical and understandable, it is legitimate under the framework of the JCPOA itself. Iran is not, however, developing capabilities to build nuclear weapons; as China and Russia have been both adamant that neither of them would like that (yet, we shall recall China and Russia are both compliant).


In between 2019 and 2020 there have been a series of shady dealings and various accusations I won’t go into (apparently the IAEA acquired some information from “secret services” of third countries which accused Iran of some kind of wrongdoing, but I personally don’t want to deal with “foreign secret services” and their “acquired documents” - and neither should the IAEA, in my opinion, but I guess they backtracked in their additional requests, as on the 26th of August they reiterated and recommitted to further their relations and to keep on working together).

And we are, back to the present. As things stand, the UNSC has refuted Pompeo’s demented claim of being still a party to the JCPOA. But it is very unlikely that their aggressive manoeuvres will stop there. I think I’m not the only one to see this situation as gloomy and potentially dangerous; as Putin himself invited the P5 + 1 (and Iran) for a meeting in Moscow to discuss the situation; and let me tell you, that IMHO the statement was pretty dramatic for Moscow’s standards. As far as I can tell, the JCPOA is really hanging by a thin, worn out thread and if the JCPOA crumbles, it’s going to be a disaster. How many times shall I stress that instability in the Middle East, given Europe’s geographical position, is really, seriously and truly detrimental for our wellbeing? Am I the only one in Europe who’s ever set eyes over a world map or something?


The tile-work outside of Mosque Lotfollah, Isfahan. Winter 2014.

In a last instance we need to note, in regards to Russia (and China as well to be fair) that they have been, as usual, respecting their commitments to Iran, and they have both tried to uphold both international law and good international trade relations; and now as it is routine, Russia is desperately trying to make everyone be reasonable (China is already reasonable by herself, but she’s not going to be pro-active in this sense). In fact we need to note for example, how both Sergey Lavrov and Wang Yi, as soon as the intentions of the United States to weaponise resolution 2231 were clear, wrote to the UN Secretary general (respectively on 27.05 and 8.06 2020) stating that the behaviour was illegitimate, ridiculous and had to be prevented - Borrell, again, are you taking notes? This is how you become a force for good in the world - by upholding your commitments and speaking up when someone does not. But alas, Nazamerican EU doesn't want to be a conscientious member of the internal community, they are perfectly happy with being a strongman who just ignores laws, kills, and flexes their muscles rather than having their brain function.

And I will conclude this text with Rouhani’s own words (2019):


We [Iran] entered nuclear talks with goodwill, made an agreement with goodwill, implemented the agreement with goodwill, and provided enough time to the other members after the withdrawal of the United States with goodwill. Now, it is the remaining countries’ turn to prove their goodwill and take serious and practical steps to preserve the JCPOA.
The window that is now open to diplomacy will not remain open for a long time, and the United States and the remaining members will be fully responsible for the failure of the JCPOA and any possible consequences.

WHAT WOULD AUTONOMOUS EUROPE DO?

Well, quite obviously Autonomous Europe would be thinking of its own interests first and foremost, so we’d never have allowed to US to damage our economy - that is just stupid. We would have looked at the sanctions, and implemented a mechanism such as INSTEX pretty much straight away. Of course this is now impossible, given our status as servants - but then this is also the point, I don’t think Europe should be a servant of the US, I think we should act in our own interests, and right now, this is the right moment. The pandemic has ravaged global economy, especially US economy, and this is right the time to break free and take independence first, and re-align our full geopolitical stance, second.

Iran is a potential trade-partner; they are NOT dangerous, and especially they’re not the ones sponsoring terrorism globally. Their 19B defence budget(which is also probably higher when adjusted to the rial) assures that they’re able to defend themselves; but as for invading other countries and launching themselves in a global, completely vague and unclear war, they simply don’t have the capacities to do that. Our servitude to the Superintendent indirectly quashes the Iranian population’s hopes for a better life - in other words, we’re killing them. If they die because the US sanctions medical supply during a global pandemic, we, as main US puppet state, we are as responsible as the US itself for the Iranian deaths which wouldn’t have happened if they had medicines.

Iran should be engaged in a completely different manner, perhaps in the framework of a greater Eurasian partnership - so that stability and trade could be reinstated as the main pillars of Eurasia existence.