2021-April-14 21:25
2021-February-25  19:06

UMD Survey: US Maximum Pressure Fails to Break Iranian Nation's Resolve to Resist

TEHRAN (FNA)- The latest survey conducted by the University of Maryland showed that the US maximum pressure has failed to break the Iranian people's resolve in confrontation with the US, while a majority of the population support the parliament law on ending the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the NPT.

According to new survey results released by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and IranPoll, an independent Toronto-based polling organization, there is no indication that the hardships have made Iran’s public desperate for sanctions relief at any cost, with 73% supporting the law that mandates expanded nuclear activities.

Telephone interviews of about 1,000 Iranians were done on Sept. 1-Oct. 2, 2020 and on Jan. 26-Feb. 6, 2021. The margin of error for both surveys was +/- 3.1%.

Based on the survey, a majority of Iranians said they are willing to resume full compliance with the nuclear deal, but only after, or at the same time that the US returns and fulfills its own obligations under the nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from in 2018.

In addition, they said that further negotiations should wait until the US complies for a few years. The findings are the result of two surveys conducted in early February 2021 and October 2020.

Most Iranians surveyed followed the US presidential elections, with nearly 90% aware of Biden’s victory. And for the first time since Trump backed out in 2018, a majority (51%) approved of the nuclear deal, with 58% expecting a US return and 60% saying they doubted a promised lifting of sanctions would occur.

“The Biden administration needs to build Iranian confidence that the United States will keep commitments it has already made before Iran’s leaders will have enough political space to consider a more ambitious agreement,” said Nancy Gallagher, director of the center based at the University of Maryland.

Confidence that the other nations that are party to the deal—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany—will live up to their obligations has improved to 43% from 30% in 2019. Iranians also expect Biden's policies toward Iran to be less hostile than Trump’s—but only relatively. On a 0-to-10 scale from most to least antagonistic, 3 was the average response for Biden, compared to a 1 for Trump, according to the survey.

On the domestic front, with their own presidential election coming in June, 60% said they want a leader who will stand up for Iran’s rights and refuse to compromise, while 35% want one who will focus on negotiation and common ground with other countries—a three-point increase compared with the start of the Trump administration.

While the United States debates whether to re-enter the JCPOA or try to use current sanctions to leverage more concessions, Iranian public attitudes show resilience to such measures, which 86% of people surveyed say have a negative impact on “ordinary people”.

Meanwhile, negative expectations about the economy have bottomed out, with 68% saying it is deteriorating compared to 72% in October. When asked whether foreign sanctions or domestic mismanagement and corruption have greater negative impact, only 35% selected sanctions; when the pandemic was added as a third choice, only a quarter picked sanctions as the worst factor.

Pain caused by the epidemic has grown over the last four months. Nearly 80% of Iranians surveyed know someone who has gotten sick from COVID-19 (up 20 points); 49% know someone who has died (up 12 points); 25% have a household member who has lost employment (up 6 points). Nearly two-thirds say foreign-made medicines and supplies are less available than a year ago. Yet, Iranians have pride in their collective response: 77% say the government has done at least a good job with the pandemic—with 28% grading the response as very good—and 49% saying Iran is more united, the survey showed.

The survey results were released as Tehran stopped the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the NPT early Tuesday based on a law approved earlier by the parliament after the Biden administration refrained from removing the sanctions against Iran in compliance with the terms of UN Resolution 2231 and the nuclear deal.

Yet, Tehran has stressed that IAEA inspections would continue under the NPT similar to the era before the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as Iran is still a signatory to the treaty.

Last month, Iranian Envoy and Permanent Representative to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi underlined that if Biden decides to return to the nuclear deal, Washington should comply with all its undertakings in exact accordance with the internationally-endorsed agreement.

“We make decision and take reciprocal action considering Biden's moves vis a vis the nuclear deal. We have repeatedly demanded the US to return to the nuclear deal and this return should be complete and without preconditions, that is to say, no issue related or unrelated to the nuclear deal should be put forward for discussion,” Takht Ravanchi said.

“It should only be clear that the US international undertakings cannot be half-fulfilled. If they claim to return to the nuclear deal, this return should be accompanied by the full implementation of their undertakings with no hesitation or controversy,” he added.

Takht Ravanchi stressed Iran’s clear position towards the nuclear deal, and said, “We live up to our undertakings.”

He referred to the parliament’s bill to take strategic measures to counter the US sanctions against Iran, and said, “There is a timetable in the parliament’s bill and we are moving in the same direction, so we (at the foreign ministry) are not entitled to specify the period for how long we will wait. In the first place, we make decisions based on national interests, and secondly, we should act on the basis of and within the framework of the parliamentary bill.”

His remarks came after Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi announced that the country is at present producing nearly half a kilo of uranium enriched to the 20% purity level, meantime, saying that Tehran’s steps to reduce nuclear deal undertakings after the West’s disloyalties can all be backtracked.

“Based on the latest news I have, they (the Iranian scientists at nuclear installations) are producing 20 grams (of 20% enriched uranium) every hour; meaning that practically, we are producing half a kilo every day,” Salehi said in an interview with the Persian-language Khamenei.ir website released last month.

“We produce and store this 20% (enriched uranium) and if they return to the nuclear deal, we will return to our undertakings too,” he added.

Asked about the recent bill approved by the parliament to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against Iran, Salehi said that the AEOI is required to implement it.

“It is a reality and both the government and the AEOI have declared that they do not have any technical problems with implementation of the parliament’s bill and we launched 20% enrichment within 24 hours,” he said.

Salehi also underlined the need for Washington to remove all sanctions against Iran, specially those which prevent the country’s oil sales and banking transactions.

Iranian legislators had in January praised the AEOI for restarting enrichment of uranium at 20-percent purity level, and called for the full implementation of the recent parliamentarian law to counter the illegal US sanctions against the country.

In a statement, 190 legislators expressed their support for the AEOI’s resumption of 20% uranium enrichment and urged the body to fully and precisely implement the law ratified as a counteractive move to the sanctions illegally imposed on the country, especially those by the United States.

The lawmakers said the parliament approved the ‘Strategic Counteractive Plan for Lifting Sanctions and Safeguarding Rights of Iranian People’ to highlight Iran’s legitimate right to use peaceful nuclear technology and the importance of lifting all cruel sanctions against the country.

The Iranian parliamentarians in a meeting on December 1, 2020 ratified the generalities of a bill to adopt strategic measures to remove sanctions against the country and defend the nation’s interests.

The lawmakers, in November, had given the green light to the single-urgency of the strategic motion, but the plan turned into a double-urgency on Sunday after the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's car was targeted by an explosion and machinegun fire in Damavand's Absard 40 kilometers to the East of Tehran on Friday November 27, 2020.

Under the bill, the AEOI is required to start in two months after the approval of the present bill to produce at least 120 kg of 20%-enriched uranium annually at Fordow nuclear site and store it inside the country, increase the enrichment capacity and production of enriched uranium to at least 500 kg per month, start the installation of centrifuges, gas injection, enrichment, and storage of materials up to proper purity levels within 3 months, via at least 1000 IR-2m centrifuges in the underground part of Shahid Ahmadi Roshan facility in Natanz, transfer any enrichment, research, and development operations of IR-6 centrifuges to the nuclear site of Shahid Ali Mohammadi in Fordow, and start enrichment operation via at least 164 centrifuges and expand it to 1000 by the end of 20 March 2021 (end of the Iranian calendar year) and return the 40 megawatts Arak heavy water reactor to its pre-JCPOA condition by reviving the heart (calandria) of the reactor within 4 months from the date of the adoption of this law.

Also, the government is required to suspend the nuclear deal-based regulatory access under the Additional Protocol and beyond within 2 months after the adoption of the law based on the articles 36 and 37 of the nuclear deal.

Iran signed the JCPOA with six world states — namely the US, Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and China — in 2015. 

Trump, a stern critic of the historic deal, unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA in May 2018, and unleashed the “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism in an attempt to strangle the Iranian oil trade, but to no avail since its "so-called maximum pressure policy" has failed to push Tehran to the negotiating table.

In response to the US’ unilateral move, Tehran has so far rowed back on its nuclear commitments four times in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

Tehran has particularly been disappointed with failure of the three European signatories to the JCPOA -- Britain, France and Germany -- to protect its business interests under the deal after the US' withdrawal.

On January 5, 2020, Iran took a final step in reducing its commitments, and said it would no longer observe any operational limitations on its nuclear industry, whether concerning the capacity and level of uranium enrichment, the volume of stockpiled uranium or research and development.

Meantime, Biden has recently said in a CNN article that he wants a renegotiation of the contents of the deal before he agrees to rejoin the agreement.

“I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal's provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern,” he wrote, mentioning that he wants changes to the contents of the nuclear deal and guarantees from Tehran that it would be open for compromise to strike multiple deals over its missile and regional powers as well as a number of other issues that have been the bones of contention between the two sides in the last four decades.

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had stressed that the US has violated the nuclear deal and is in no position to ask for any conditions for its return to the JCPOA, adding that it's Tehran that has its own terms to allow the US back into the internationally endorsed agreement.

The foreign minister has reiterated time and again that Tehran would not change even a single word of the agreement, and cautioned the US that it needs to pay reparations for the damage it has inflicted on Iran through its retreat from the nuclear agreement and give enough insurances that it would not go for initiating the trigger mechanism again before it could get back to the deal.

In relevant remarks earlier this month, Spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Behrouz Kamalvandi said his country enjoys the capability to produce 120 kg of uranium with 20% purity in 8 months, that's 4 months faster than the one-year period required by a recent parliament approval.