Iran Was Violating the Nuclear Deal Even before the U.S. Pulled Out

March 5 2021

In a formal report on Monday, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), made clear—without saying it outright—that the Islamic Republic had deliberately misled the agency about its ongoing nuclear activities. Richard Goldberg explains what this means with regard to the White House’s hopes of reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the 2015 agreement with Tehran is formally known:

These revelations undermine the very core of the JCPOA and will pose serious challenges to any attempt to resurrect the agreement. First, it’s clear now that Iran deceived the IAEA in 2015 and never provided a complete or truthful accounting of its undeclared nuclear activities. . . . Second, critical deficiencies in the JCPOA’s inspection regime are on full display. . . . Most concerning, Iran keeps its military facilities, [including those where nuclear research is taking place], off-limits to IAEA inspections—leaving a gaping hole in its verification regime.

Third, the IAEA is pulling on a thread that opened while America remained a participant in the JCPOA. Unlike other nuclear misconduct topping the news, including the enrichment of uranium, Iran’s nuclear deceit is not a response to U.S. withdrawal from the deal [in 2018] or imposition of sanctions—it is a fundamental breach of its nuclear obligations and commitments, including the nonproliferation treaty [it signed in 1968].

Papering over Iran’s breach of its most fundamental nuclear obligations in favor of the empty reassurances provided by a flawed nuclear agreement would be an enormous strategic mistake—not just for the new administration’s Iran policy but for other regimes watching across the world. To reward Iran with sanctions relief for concealing undeclared nuclear material and activities poses a far greater threat to the global nonproliferation regime than withdrawal from flawed agreements.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran, Iran nuclear program, Nuclear proliferation, U.S. Foreign policy

Reengaging the Syrian Government Has Brought Jordan an Influx of Narcotics, but Little Stability

As Syria’s civil war drags on, and it seems increasingly unlikely that Bashar al-Assad will be overthrown, Arab states that had anathematized his regime for its brutal treatment of its own people have gradually begun to rebuild economic and diplomatic relations. There are also those who believe the West should do the same. The case of Jordan, argues Charles Lister, shows the folly of such a course of action:

Despite having been a longtime and pivotally important backer of Syria’s armed anti-Assad opposition since 2012, Jordan flipped in 2017 and 2018, eventually stepping forward to greenlight a brutal, Russian-coordinated Syrian-regime campaign against southern Syria in the summer of 2018. Amman’s reasoning for turning against Syria’s opposition was its desire for stability along its border, to create conditions amenable to refugee returns, and to rid southern Syria of Islamic State cells as well as an extensive Iranian and Hizballah presence.

As hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians were swiftly besieged and indiscriminately bombed from the ground and air, Jordan forced its yearslong Free Syrian Army partners to surrender, according to interviews I conducted with commanders at the time. In exchange, they were promised by Jordan a Russian-guaranteed reconciliation process.

Beyond the negligible benefit of resuming trade, Russia’s promise of “reconciliation” has resolutely failed. Syria’s southern province of Daraa is now arguably the most unstable region in the country, riddled with daily insurgent attacks, inter-factional strife, targeted assassinations, and more. Within that chaos, which Russia has consistently failed to resolve, not only does Iran remain in place alongside Hizballah and a network of local proxy militias but Iran and its proxies have expanded their reach and influence, commanding some 150 military facilities across southern Syria. Islamic State, too, continues to conduct sporadic attacks in the area.

Although limited drug smuggling has always existed across the Syria-Jordan border, the scale of the Syrian drug trade has exploded in the last two years. The most acute spike occurred (and has since continued) immediately after the Jordanian king Abdullah II’s decision to speak with Assad on the phone in October 2021. Since then, dozens of people have been killed in border clashes associated with the Syrian drug trade, and although Jordan had previously been a transit point toward the prime market in the Persian Gulf, it has since become a key market itself, with Captagon use in the country now described as an “epidemic,” particularly among young people and amid a 30-percent unemployment rate.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Drugs, Jordan, Middle East, Syrian civil war