Nonproliferation Experts Warn Biden on Urgent Need for U.S. Reentry into Iran Nuclear Deal

For Immediate Release:  January 14, 2021

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102.

(Washington, D.C.)—As Iran continues to threaten to take further steps in retaliation for Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a group of more than 70 former government officials and leading nuclear nonproliferation experts issued a joint statement today on why "returning the United States to compliance with its JCPOA obligations alongside Iran must be an urgent priority" for the incoming Biden administration.

President Trump withdrew the JCPOA in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions that had been waived as part of the agreement. Iran remained in compliance through May 2019, but since then it has retaliated through calibrated violations of the agreement to pressure the remaining JCPOA parties to meet their commitments.

The experts group writes that "[f]ailure to return to compliance with the nuclear deal increases the likelihood that the JCPOA will collapse," and that there exists only "a short window of opportunity following inauguration day for coordinated diplomatic action to fully restore the JCPOA’s restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s breaches of the deal are concerning. They also appear to be calibrated responses designed to pressure the remaining JCPOA parties to meet their commitments to deliver on the sanctions relief agreed to in the accord."

The experts note that Iran's "uranium stockpile remains far below the pre-JCPOA levels, and Iran continues to cooperate with the more intrusive verification measures put in place by the accord. Almost all the violations reported to date are reversible."

"Restoration of the JCPOA’s nuclear restrictions and its economic benefits for Iran stands the best chance of blocking Iran’s potential pathways to nuclear weapons, providing incentive and encouragement not to do so, and creating space for further diplomacy,” the experts conclude.

"We strongly urge the incoming Biden administration to end the Trump administration’s failed policy of JCPOA withdrawal that has resulted in Iran advancing its nuclear program and undermined global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. We urge all JCPOA parties to meet their respective obligations under the terms of the agreement and all states to support full implementation of the accord,” the experts write.

Signatories of the letter include former IAEA Director-General Hans Blix, two former special representatives to the president of the United States on nonproliferation, and several former high-level officials from the National Security Council, the National Intelligence Council, and the State Department, among other agencies.

The full text of the statement and list of signatories is available online.