by Oreoluwa D. Babatope.

Policy Areas: Inequality, Globalization and International Relations.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has stated that Iran will increase its level of uranium enrichment, in a step described as the country’s second phase in scaling back its adherence to the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers. It was indicated in June that the country would begin violating the terms of the deal in two parts unless the deal’s other signatories began offering relief from crippling economic sanctions. After achieving the first part (passing the 300-kilogramme stockpile limit set by the deal), the next part is to push its enrichment level beyond the cap set in the deal of 3.67 per cent. If Europe’s efforts to salvage the deal (after the USA pulled out last year) are not sufficient, Iran intends to go ahead with the breach.

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Discussing the structure of power in the International Political Economy, Strange (1994)[2] notes the serious problems of inequality plaguing the world. Reflected in the marked inequality of states in bargaining power, this wide gap is also echoed in the unequal standing of countries as parties to international agreements and accords. In spite of the recognition of other signatories to the deal as world powers, the withdrawal of the United States and the reinstatement of harsher sanctions on Iran had significant negative impacts on the Iran economy. The substantial drop in the Iranian Rial, which spurred inflation, has been projected to reach 80% annually; further hindering development.[3] Knowing the power wielded by the USA, President Trump had no problem slapping tariffs and imposing sanctions on Iran without any evidence of breach made public. Also worthy of note is the wiping out of any efforts that might have been made by the previous administration to establish dialogues and normalize relations with Iran. Such relations could have been solidified by strict adherence to the terms of the accord by all parties involved.

Following the withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, different views were expressed as to whether or not Iran would continue to comply with the terms, as long as the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany remain parties. Why should Iran be expected to keep its own end of the deal, under the weight of crippling oil, economic and financial US sanctions. It is also reported that the USA has continued to ratchet up the pressure on the Islamic Republic, including moving military assets into the region.[4] Why then, are the European leaders urging Iran not to breach the deal? What are the incentives provided? What are they doing to shield Iran from the sanction’s effects? The general consensus of nuclear experts analyzing the first phase of the breach is that, despite surpassing the 300kg internationally agreed stockpile limit of low-enriched uranium, a nuclear weapon is still a long way off. Though more concerning, even if they carry out the 2nd phase; uranium enrichment, they still have a lot more do, to be qualified as a ‘nuclear armed country.’[5] While it could appear that the Iranians are only trying to gain some form of leverage on the nuclear front, to prompt the US to action, it sends a message to countries on the bottom end of the inequality pyramid. They would not sit back and be bullied or taken advantage of, by the ‘world powers.’

Despite evidence pointing towards the emergence of new global order, economy and society, there is still a lot to be unpacked. If a 2015 agreement between seven countries already started falling apart in 2018, what is the implication for a more comprehensive collaboration between countries? With President Trump’s leaning towards mercantilism and protectionism; and the looming threat of a cold war between the pillars of the knowledge structure, where does globalization stand? Stephane Girod (2016),[6] a Professor of Strategy and International Business, opines that with “rising inequalities; geopolitical tensions; financial imbalances; ecological concerns; and growing populism,” we might be on the verge of deglobalization. Or at best, the process seems to be on pause. Harari (2016),[7] on the other hand, believes that the appearance of essentially global problems, (such as melting ice caps), “nibbles away at whatever legitimacy remains to the independent nation states.” How much unity can be said to be among African countries, before extending to the world at large?

International cooperation cannot be possible with the current level of distrust and suspicion amongst countries. It is not enough to recognize the gains inherent in global collaboration; also of importance is ensuring that no country is left behind.

[1] This article is taken from Punch (Online) News. Available at: https://punchng.com/iran-to-boost-uranium-enrichment-starting-sunday-president/. Date; 03/07/2019.

[2] Susan Strange (1988, 1994). States and Markets. Continuum, Great Britain. 2nd Ed. Available at: https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/states-and-markets-9780826473899/

[3] Leonid Isaev (2018, November 21). The Middle East after the US’s Withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal. Riddle. Retrieved from https://www.ridl.io/en/the-middle-east-after-the-uss-withdrawal-from-the-iran-nuclear-deal/

[4] Punch (Online) News (2019, July 3). Iran to boost uranium enrichment starting Sunday —President. Retrieved from https://punchng.com/iran-to-boost-uranium-enrichment-starting-sunday-president/

[5] Natasha Turak (2019 July, 2). Iran is breaching its uranium stockpile limit under the nuclear deal. Here’s what that actually means. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/02/iran-nuclear-deal-what-exceeding-irans-uranium-stockpile-limit-means.html

[6] Girod Stephane (2016, November). Part 1: The end of globalization? IMD. Retrieved from https://www.imd.org/research-knowledge/articles/part-1-the-end-of-globalization/

[7] Yuval Noah Harari (2014). Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. United Kingdom, Harvill Secker. Pg. 107. Available at:  https://www.academia.edu/26999548/Yuval_Noah_Harari-Sapiens_A_Brief_History_of_Human.pdf