The report notes that this gain was regarded as defiance of general foreign expectations for the Islamic Republic following the nuclear agreement, which defined relief from all nuclear-related sanctions. Economic analysts are now taking seriously Iran’s plans to increase its output to four million barrels per day by the end of the year, thereby exceeding the peak that the Iranian oil industry reached eight years previous.
But while Iran may be serious about its intentions for this level and speed of recovery, the viability of those plans certainly depends upon the persistent enforcement of the JCPOA. And this is something about which a number of commentators have expressed serious doubt. The nuclear deal appears to be facing rising levels of opposition on both sides of its implementation, with Iranian officials expressing dissatisfaction with its impact on Iranian access to European markets, and American politicians insisting that the deal may not be effective in forestalling Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
Naturally, these Western concerns have led to the persistence of political efforts to either strengthen the implementation of the deal or to merely cancel it an implement new economic sanctions. The latter recommendation was made on Thursday in an editorial by former Member of the European Parliament Struan Stevenson, which was published in The Diplomat.
Stevenson questioned whether the nuclear agreement is falling apart on its own as a result of revelations of its weakness and of Iranian plans to greatly expand nuclear enrichment either in the last years of the 15-year deal or much earlier, depending on whether the Iranian leadership feels like it is under continued pressure from the West.
In effect, Stevenson advocated for eliminating the uncertainty on this point and simply resuming a policy of exerting pressure through the “hard-hitting sanctions” that forced Tehran to the negotiating table and theoretically should have eliminated the major threats of Iranian violations, which now persist more than seven months after implementation.
But even if there were not such prominent threats on this point, there would no doubt still be considerable advocacy for revocation of the JCPOA, in light of Western concerns about that deal’s effects on Iran’s finances, and the resulting concerns about how those finances might be spent.
This issue was given renewed primacy last week when it was announced that the US Treasury Department was imposing new sanctions on three members of Al Qaeda who were believed to be living in Iran. This revelation is one of the latest pieces of evidence indicating that Iran has not diminished its support for international terrorism in the wake of the JCPOA. US President Barack Obama, the deal’s standard-bearer in the US, suggested that the success of nuclear negotiations might encourage a moderating trend in the Islamic Republic. But various examples of persistent hardline policies have further compounded opposition to the deal among Obama’s political adversaries.
On Thursday, Al Arabiya suggested that the three newly sanctioned Al Qaeda members only constitute a small part of a much larger phenomenon, one that includes Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza, who is reportedly a recognized beneficiary of Iran’s largesse.
Letters recovered from the bin Laden compound have apparently revealed dozens of names of people with connections to both Al Qaeda and Iran, as well as confirming that Osama bin Laden had advised some of his followers that Iran was the Sunni terrorist group’s “chief pathway for our money, men, communiqué, and hostages.”
In the wake of the sanctions of the three Iranian-based Al Qaeda members, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has merely denied knowledge of their presence in the country. At the same time, the Foreign Ministry and other departments of the Iranian government continued to insist upon more American assistance with the Iranian economic recovery, threatening to walk away from the JCPOA or otherwise retaliate if they felt they were still subject to foreign pressure.
Naturally, such reactions raise the concern that Iran is similarly lacking in transparency about its past terrorist activities and about its intentions and expectations vis-à-vis the nuclear deal.