Why coronavirus pandemic could end Tehran’s nuclear plans

Why coronavirus pandemic could end Tehran’s nuclear plans

Iran is one of the countries suffering the most during the coronavirus pandemic - and an Iranian expert has suggested to Express.co.uk that the deadly virus could lead to the end of Tehran's nuclear ambitions too. As Daily Express writes, Iran has been pushing for a nuclear programme for years, claiming it wants to develop atomic power. However, the international community has been suspicious over the country’s true intentions, and some believed the Iranian government wanted to build nuclear weapons instead. In the furore, Iran agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015, colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal. 

The agreement saw Iran accept regular inspections from the other signatories — UK, the US, France, China, Russia and Germany — and limits on its uranium enrichment if sanctions were lifted. Yet the international agreement began to crumble in 2018 when US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal, believing it was too lenient towards Iran.

He imposed harsh sanctions, and tensions between the two nations began to escalate at the beginning of this year. In the meantime, Iran’s inaction over the coronavirus crisis and interactions with the US might affect the nation’s nuclear programme, according to a journalist from Iran International.

Speaking to exclusively Express.co.uk, Dr Pupaki Mohebali explained: "Iran cannot fight the virus on its own, it needs help — global help.” Mr Trump ordered a fatal drone attack on top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, leading to international fears that World War 3 could be on the way.

However, the US President has since presented Iran with an olive branch by offering some humanitarian aid during the coronavirus pandemic, but Iran refused. Its supreme leader Ali Khamenei dubbed the country’s leaders “charlatans” instead, conspired that the US created the deadly virus and vowed to beat the pandemic.

Dr Mohebali explained: "Whether [Iran] will go back to the negotiating table, just because of the effect of the virus — I can't say anything about it. "We have to wait until after the pandemic to see how much support it still has from the people or from the international community.”

Despite the US pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal two years ago, the other signatories have been trying to make it work. However, during the period of increasing hostility between the US and Iran earlier this year, Boris Johnson did appear to back Mr Trump’s suggestion of a new, stricter nuclear deal — ‘The Trump deal’.

Additionally, international suspicions have been raised during the pandemic as a travel ban means inspectors cannot reach Iran’s nuclear facilities. Without this key element of the deal being carried out, the international community is worried.

Dr Mohebali continued: “The US and its allies including Israel and some of the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf do not really trust that Iran is abiding by the rules of the nuclear deal. "If the inspections happen, they could go to Iran, travel through Iran, they are able to monitor all the nuclear activities — that would be very helpful, and that's what has been happening in the last few years. "But now, as the inspectors are not able to travel, it is a little tricky.”

Scientific magazine The Bulletin pointed out last month that suspending inspections “could potentially leave a multi-month gap that Iran could exploit if it chose to fully break out of the nuclear agreement”. The same piece noted that Iran had “amassed over 1,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, nearly triple the amount allowed under the deal”.

With Iran already flouting the rules of the deal following the US’ departure, the international community is likely to be far less forgiving. Yet, Dr Mohebali raised the question: “Are the European countries, who may put pressure on China or other parts of the nuclear deal, still going to support the Iran nuclear deal? Will they stay with the deal? “Whether at the end of this pandemic, Iran will stay with the nuclear deal or it will withdraw completely, we have to wait for that."

The coronavirus is putting the general public in Iran under significant strain, Dr Mohebali pointed out. With more than 50,000 confirmed cases according to the official statistics in the country, the general public want the government to prioritise this health emergency above any international deals.

She said that “perspective in the country has changed” in relation to the nuclear programme. Initially it was supported, as many thought it would advance the economy and Iran’s international standing. Now, with the US sanctions and the pandemic tightening its grip in the country, focus has shifted away from the nuclear ambitions and towards the immediate danger of coronavirus.

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