Unravelling of the Iran nuclear deal

Unravelling of the Iran nuclear deal
A snapshot of the Iranian nuclear deal.
3 min read
20 September, 2020
A landmark 2015 deal on Iran's nuclear programme has been falling apart [Getty]
A landmark 2015 deal on Iran's nuclear programme has been falling apart since the United States unilaterally pulled out of the agreement in May 2018.

On Saturday, Washington declared that UN sanctions were back in force, a move other major countries – including its allies – said lacked legal basis.

Here is a snapshot:

US withdrawal

On May 8, 2018, President Donald Trump withdraws the US from the deal negotiated between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – plus Germany.

"We cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement," Trump says.

US sanctions

In August and November 2018, Washington reimposes sanctions on Iran and companies with ties to it, notably hitting Iran's vital oil sector and central bank.

Major international firms halt their activities and projects in Iran.

In May 2019, Washington ends its sanctions exemptions for countries buying Iranian crude oil.

Iran starts walk-back

Iran that month announces its first step back from the deal, seeking to pressure European signatories to help it get round the sanctions.

Trump then sanctions Iran's steel and mining sectors.

In July, Tehran says it has exceeded the accord's restrictions on its enriched uranium reserves and uranium enrichment level.

More steps

In September, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear watchdog says Iran has started using advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium.

On November 4, Tehran says its enrichment increased tenfold and that it has developed two new advanced centrifuges.

Later that month, it resumes enrichment at its underground Fordow plant in its fourth walk-back and says its heavy water reserves have passed the accord's limit.

More centrifuges

Tensions between Washington and Tehran spiral after a January 2020 US drone strike kills top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, sparking a tit-for-tat confrontation.

Iran announces its fifth step back from the deal on January 5, foregoing a limit on its number of centrifuges.

Dispute mechanism

On February 14, Iran demands significant economic advantages from Europe in return for cancelling all or part of its rollback measures.

On March 31, European signatories say they have delivered medical goods to Iran, in the first transaction under the Instex mechanism set up to bypass the US sanctions.

Over the limit

On May 27, Washington ends sanctions waivers for nations that remain in the accord, which allow companies still present in Iran to carry out the agreement.

On June 5, the IAEA says Iran has accumulated enriched uranium at nearly eight times the limit of the accord and has for months blocked inspections at key sites.

On June 19, IAEA governors pass a resolution critical of Iran, the first of its kind since 2012, urging Tehran to provide its inspectors with access to two sites.

Setback for US

On August 14, the UN Security Council rejects a US resolution aimed at extending the embargo on arms sales to Iran that expires in October.

On August 20, the United States formally begins the process of activating a controversial mechanism aimed at reimposing UN sanctions on Iran.

It immediately comes up against opposition from European and other powers.

Read also: Iran urges world to unite against US 'reckless actions'

US reimposes sanctions

On September 4, the IAEA says Iran has granted its inspectors access to one of the two sites.

Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium now stands at more than ten times the limit set down in the 2015 deal, the IAEA says.

On September 20, Washington unilaterally proclaims UN sanctions against Iran are back in force, and promises to punish those who violate them.

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