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Iran Nuclear Deal hangs by a thread – IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

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Iran Nuclear Deal hangs by a thread - IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

Anil Trigunayat

In any negotiation, both sides want to extract the maximum mileage until it becomes a zero-sum game. Face-saving and victory of sorts for all sides, at least a perceived one, is often the outcome. In addition, those third parties that are likely to be indirectly and directly affected need some consolation and clarity.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the Iranian Nuclear Deal to capital Tehran’s ambitions for a nuclear arsenal is one such complicated issue and exercise in vain for many observers who always cast doubt on its efficacy to begin with. The trust deficit is rampant and none of the adversaries has tried to bridge it.

Since 1979 when the Khomeini regime took over Tehran, Tel Aviv and to some extent Riyadh and other Sunni states have been stuck into a mutually destructive syndrome and existential threats and crisis. Both sides have used overt and covert means to undermine the other’s capabilities and capacities.

Israel wants to decimate the Iranian capacity to enrich the Uranium and delay the acquisition of an ‘Islamic Bomb’ that it might already have. Israel is also a nuclear state and parity in deterrence may mean losing the edge.

The US wishes to ensure Israeli security at all costs and has, unfortunately, become the cause of greater instability as a result of its sea-saw policy vis-à-vis Tehran. While Obama under the rubric of P5+1 did engineer, even if an imperfect, deal in 2015 most observers felt that Iran might delay its nuclear quest for greater economic advantage and inclusion in the western economic landscape.

But Comrade Trump reneged on the deal in 2018, and through his ‘maximum pressure tactics’ and more severe sanctions regime, tried to push Iran into a corner. But the outcome was exactly the opposite as Tehran continued to advance its centrifuges and enhance its enrichment capacities and went even closer to the abhorred objective. And the already volatile region was near a boil.

President Biden wanted to revert to the deal as Trump’s exit had caused a major setback to the US’ reputation which began to be perceived not only as more unilateralist but untrustworthy in the international domain where agreements and treaties do have a certain sanctity. Iran maintained that it was not the one who had baulked on the deal it was the US that ought to simply revert and lift all sanctions.

A maximalist position may be good for negotiations but has its downside too. Failure of the deal and negotiations have critical consequences for the already volatile region. Iranians want the deal too but are pushing for all their concerns and removal of sanctions including against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) whose head General Soleimani was killed by the US in a drone attack in Iraq leading to even the Iraqis wanting the Americans out.

Tehran had promised retaliation and revenge and now the US is charging an IRGC Commander Shahram Poursafi, also known as Mehdi Rezayi, 45, who was likely motivated to kill John Bolton (then US NSA) and Mike Pompeo (Trump’s Secretary of State)  in retaliation for the death of Qassem Soleimani.

Jake Sullivan NSA warned Tehran, “Should Iran attack any of our citizens, to include those who continue to serve the United States or those who formerly served, Iran will face severe consequences”.

Likewise, Secretary Anthony Blinken tweeted “Any attack would be met with severe consequences”. An unconvinced Israel is keeping its options open. Even though President Biden during his recent visit to the region tried to convince his strategic partners about the desirability of the JCPOA, Defence Minister Benny Gantz hoped that as a last resort in the war against Iran, Washington will stand with them.

“Should we be able to conduct military operations to prevent it

Tehran condemned the US move. “Iran strongly warns against any action against Iranian citizens under the pretext of these ridiculous and baseless accusations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said.

This hyperactivity in messaging could be a pressure tactic and could even be a disruptive cause for any chance of the deal coming through as the two sides take standing positions.

Russia -Ukraine war and the ensuing energy crisis did bring about some urgency to close the deal as the Europeans are facing a major challenge and Iranian oil and gas supplies could alleviate that pressure. As such, they were not on board with Trump’s exit and avoidable browbeating. Hence, every time there was a slip in the indirect negotiations between Tehran and Washington DC Europeans have been trying to keep it afloat.

Recently, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell visited Tehran to restart the stalled talks and finally, according to them, the two sides have tentatively agreed to a draft deal. All have returned to their capitals. Iranians admitted to the deal being close but with a ‘big but’.

While the Americans are trying they seem to be losing hope and Iranians feel emboldened by the ongoing global crisis which could give them some dividends. Hence, Tehran might be looking to extract as much as possible before getting bracketed in the contours of the deal. Although Iran will surely benefit economically from the revival of the JCPOA, but arguably they have learnt to live with and bypass the western sanctions for decades.

Speaker of Iranian Parliament Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf reiterated there are two views of how to approach the negotiations. One is that Iran must submit and the other is that Iran must “resist and stand on its own feet. But experience has shown that with resistance, relying on the people, and precise economic planning is the only path to save .”

The trust deficit is deep. Tehran wants US guarantees that in the event of another Republican Presidency the deal will remain intact. Biden or for that matter any US President, after what happened in the Trump era, could not give such a guarantee nor should the Iranians be naïve to even ask and accept one. But an early resolution of the JCPOA is indeed desirable.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the Iranian Nuclear Deal to capital Tehran’s ambitions for a nuclear arsenal is one such complicated issue and exercise in vain for many observers who always cast doubt on its efficacy to begin with. The trust deficit is rampant and none of the adversaries has tried to bridge it.

Since 1979 when the Khomeini regime took over Tehran, Tel Aviv and to some extent Riyadh and other Sunni states have been stuck into a mutually destructive syndrome and existential threats and crisis. Both sides have used overt and covert means to undermine the other’s capabilities and capacities.

Israel wants to decimate the Iranian capacity to enrich the Uranium and delay the acquisition of an ‘Islamic Bomb’ that it might already have. Israel is also a nuclear state and parity in deterrence may mean losing the edge.

The US wishes to ensure Israeli security at all costs and has, unfortunately, become the cause of greater instability as a result of its sea-saw policy vis-à-vis Tehran. While Obama under the rubric of P5+1 did engineer, even if an imperfect, deal in 2015 most observers felt that Iran might delay its nuclear quest for greater economic advantage and inclusion in the western economic landscape.

But Comrade Trump reneged on the deal in 2018, and through his ‘maximum pressure tactics’ and more severe sanctions regime, tried to push Iran into a corner. But the outcome was exactly the opposite as Tehran continued to advance its centrifuges and enhance its enrichment capacities and went even closer to the abhorred objective. And the already volatile region was near a boil.

President Biden wanted to revert to the deal as Trump’s exit had caused a major setback to the US’ reputation which began to be perceived not only as more unilateralist but untrustworthy in the international domain where agreements and treaties do have a certain sanctity. Iran maintained that it was not the one who had baulked on the deal it was the US that ought to simply revert and lift all sanctions.

A maximalist position may be good for negotiations but has its downside too. Failure of the deal and negotiations have critical consequences for the already volatile region. Iranians want the deal too but are pushing for all their concerns and removal of sanctions including against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) whose head General Soleimani was killed by the US in a drone attack in Iraq leading to even the Iraqis wanting the Americans out.

Tehran had promised retaliation and revenge and now the US is charging an IRGC Commander Shahram Poursafi, also known as Mehdi Rezayi, 45, who was likely motivated to kill John Bolton (then US NSA) and Mike Pompeo (Trump’s Secretary of State)  in retaliation for the death of Qassem Soleimani.

Jake Sullivan NSA warned Tehran, “Should Iran attack any of our citizens, to include those who continue to serve the United States or those who formerly served, Iran will face severe consequences”.

Likewise, Secretary Anthony Blinken tweeted “Any attack would be met with severe consequences”. An unconvinced Israel is keeping its options open. Even though President Biden during his recent visit to the region tried to convince his strategic partners about the desirability of the JCPOA, Defence Minister Benny Gantz hoped that as a last resort in the war against Iran, Washington will stand with them.

“Should we be able to conduct military operations to prevent it

Tehran condemned the US move. “Iran strongly warns against any action against Iranian citizens under the pretext of these ridiculous and baseless accusations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said.

This hyperactivity in messaging could be a pressure tactic and could even be a disruptive cause for any chance of the deal coming through as the two sides take standing positions.

Russia -Ukraine war and the ensuing energy crisis did bring about some urgency to close the deal as the Europeans are facing a major challenge and Iranian oil and gas supplies could alleviate that pressure. As such, they were not on board with Trump’s exit and avoidable browbeating. Hence, every time there was a slip in the indirect negotiations between Tehran and Washington DC Europeans have been trying to keep it afloat.

Recently, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell visited Tehran to restart the stalled talks and finally, according to them, the two sides have tentatively agreed to a draft deal. All have returned to their capitals. Iranians admitted to the deal being close but with a ‘big but’.

While the Americans are trying they seem to be losing hope and Iranians feel emboldened by the ongoing global crisis which could give them some dividends. Hence, Tehran might be looking to extract as much as possible before getting bracketed in the contours of the deal. Although Iran will surely benefit economically from the revival of the JCPOA, but arguably they have learnt to live with and bypass the western sanctions for decades.

Speaker of Iranian Parliament Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf reiterated there are two views of how to approach the negotiations. One is that Iran must submit and the other is that Iran must “resist and stand on its own feet. But experience has shown that with resistance, relying on the people, and precise economic planning is the only path to save .”

The trust deficit is deep. Tehran wants US guarantees that in the event of another Republican Presidency the deal will remain intact. Biden or for that matter any US President, after what happened in the Trump era, could not give such a guarantee nor should the Iranians be naïve to even ask and accept one. But an early resolution of the JCPOA is indeed desirable.

This article was first published in CNBC TV18 as JCPOA – The Iran nuclear deal hangs on between yes and but on 13 August 2022.

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Youtube- Watch Anil Trigunayat at IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk as part of the panel discussion on the topic Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and Emerging Geopolitics

About the Author

Anil Trigunayatformer Indian Ambassador to Jordan, Libya, and Malta; Distinguished Fellow and Head of the West Asia Experts Group at the Vivekananda International Foundation

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