In this episode of My Nuclear Life, host Shelly Lesher interviews Richard Nephew. Richard was the lead sanctions expert on the US negotiating team for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - also known as the Iran nuclear deal. He is now a Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. Shelly and Richard discuss the JCPOA, sanctions, and what we might expect from President-elect Biden’s administration.
Shelly begins the episode with an introduction to the JCPOA. In 2002, George W. Bush accused Iran of a secret nuclear weapons program. Following this accusation, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met with Iranian officials to carry out facility inspections and ascertain the history of the Iranian program. In 2015, after years of negotiations, Iran and the P5+1 (France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and the United States) signed the Iran nuclear deal. Then, in 2018, Trump backed out of the JCPOA and reimposed nuclear-related sanctions.
Next, Shelly introduces Richard Nephew, who provides further background and an explanation of the JCPOA. Essentially, the Iranians were required to take steps to restrict their nuclear program and open it up to greater international transparency. In exchange, sanctions were relieved. Richard explains the difference between primary and secondary sanctions, as well as how the United States’ sanctions affect the everyday Iranian. While primary sanctions restrict Iranian citizens’ access to American products, secondary sanctions restrict access to the international community and can cause more harm.
The justification given for America’s departure from the JCPOA was that it wasn’t doing enough. Richard explains this reasoning, as well as the counterargument. In light of the sanctions imposed on Iran after the US left the JCPOA, Richard describes the purpose of sanctions, and what makes sanctions effective or ineffective. Shelly and Richard discuss parallels between the Iran sanctions and those imposed on Cuba and Vietnam. They also talk about the plans Biden has laid out for the relationship with Iran and where the US stands they re-enter negotiations.
Check out Richard’s book, The Art of Sanctions.
Richard Nephew: Former principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the US State Department and lead sanctions expert for the US negotiating team with Iran on what became the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Currently Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. <o:p></o:p>
Special thanks: Lexie Weghorn & John Emery
Production costs for this episode provided though National Science Foundation Grant PHY-1713816.