Tensions escalate in the Middle East

Wednesday, 2019-06-19 18:35:51
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Fire and smoke billow from the Norwegian owned Front Altair tanker, which was said to have been attacked in the Gulf of Oman. (Photo: Getty)
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NDO – The United States has decided to send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East for “defensive purposes” against the air, naval, and ground-based threats in the region.

Meanwhile, the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) stated that Iran would surpass the uranium stockpile limits, while reducing its commitments in the nuclear deal that Tehran signed with the P5+1 powers. This is considered a “retaliatory move” between the US and Iran in a dangerous confrontation.

The US-Iran dispute has yet to show signs of cooling down after Washington accused Iran of attacking two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Nearly almost ignoring the international community’s calls for dialogue, both the US and Iran are applying solid policies aiming to show their military power and resilience. Acting US Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan declared that the Pentagon deployed additional troops to the Middle East in response to Iranian moves which, he said, are threatening the US interests and forces in the region. In reply, Iran said it would continue to “narrow” the implementation of commitments in the nuclear agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

From the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor in southwestern Iran, a leader of the AEOI revealed a plan to increase the rate of enrichment of uranium. The preparation phase to surpass Iran’s stockpile limit of 300 kilograms of enriched uranium has begun and the limit will be exceeded within 10 days. Tehran even emphasised that it could increase the rate of enrichment of uranium by 20% in service of domestic reactors. In response, the US affirmed it would not give in to Iran’s nuclear claims.

With the new moves mentioned above, it seems that the Iranian nuclear deal is being disrupted by both the US and Iran, and Iran’s “nuclear dossier” could possibly be brought back to the “starting line”. However, Tehran said European nations still had time to save the JCPOA, even with fragile efforts. Iran called on European powers who are signatories to the accord to fulfill their commitment to protect Iran from US sanctions. Tehran insisted that efforts should be made with actions, not just with words. Meanwhile, in response to the US decision on deploying troops, a senior Iranian security official said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf security and urged US forces to leave the region. By asserting that it would ensure security in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, Iran would like to send a message confirming its position in the region that is considered a strategic and sensitive sea route.

In the face of developments escalating tensions in the Gulf, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Iran to continue to comply with the JCPOA, while urging all signatories to the accord to thoroughly adhere to their respective commitments. The UN leader called on countries to support the enforcement of the JCPOA and requested the parties concerned to refrain from moves that risk escalating tensions within the region.

The JCPOA is inherently considered by the international community as a major achievement in diplomacy and anti-nuclear proliferation, contributing to peace and security around the world and in the region. However, this agreement is on the brink of collapse. Germany and the United Kingdom also recommended that Tehran should not surpass the uranium stockpile limits mandated by the accord. Berlin affirmed that it would not accept the unilateral cessation of compliance to some commitments in the JCPOA. Meanwhile, Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that the EU would not act on Iran’s claims and would wait for reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Many countries have urged the US not to use the measure of pressuring to resolve the Iran issue, while calling on the parties concerned to take immediate actions to mitigate tensions and avoid the risk of a military confrontation. The abidance by obligations under the JCPOA framework and the full and effective implementation of this historic deal are believed to be the only righteous solution at the moment for JCPOA signatories to cool down an atmosphere which is already getting overheated and prevent it leading to the dangerous agitated moves in the Middle East at present.