An agreement to reduce and rein in Iran’s nuclear program is in danger of collapse amid ambivalence in sanctions relief by the United States and by a radical administration in Iran about the benefits of a deal that is more than it’s worth. can consider the problem.
For now, diplomatic envoys from the countries of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) are scrambling to come up with a formula to restart talks stalled earlier this year. Officials working to revive the deal await any positive signs or steps by Iran, which is rapidly expanding its program beyond the limits of the nuclear deal and with inspectors seeking clarity on its program. complicating access.
“The deal is not completely finished, but it is on life support,” said a government official involved in the negotiations. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
Experts caution that the status quo cannot be maintained and that the failure of the deal could lead to increased armed tensions. The United States has accused Iran of dragging its feet, and on Tuesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, “This is not an exercise that can go on indefinitely.” Israel’s Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned this week that “a confrontation with Iran is only a matter of time, not too long.”
The JCPOA, the result of more than a dozen years of diplomacy, was largely in the works until US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the deal in 2018 and forced Iran to hammer back on the negotiating table. launched a campaign of harsh sanctions to A more favorable deal for Washington and its regional partners.
A plan hatched by a narrow group of Washington political operatives failed. Iran stepped up its nuclear program, refused to engage with Washington, and began to stabilize its economy. US President Joe Biden vowed to return to the deal after taking office in January, but waited months before addressing Iran. Negotiations resumed in Vienna, but were derailed by an Iranian election that brought the radical administration of President Ibrahim Raisi to power.
Mr Raisi’s team, now in office since early August, says it needs time to settle down, with the Biden administration blaming the three-month delay in starting talks earlier this year. But Western officials suspect Iran is dragging its feet to take advantage by increasing the purity and quantity of its nuclear fuel stockpile.
“If they are playing for time by expanding their schedule, we need to re-examine our approach,” said the official involved in the Iran talks.
But in large part Iran’s calculations remain a mystery. Unlike the harsh administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who ruled from 2005 to 2013, Raisi has been relatively calm, making some waves internationally and giving few indications of his intentions.
“They are struggling to work out a strategy and build a consensus,” said Chatham House Iran expert Sanam Vakil. “Their leg stretching can be seen as a leverage-building exercise, but it is also a reflection of internal paralysis.”
Indeed, just as Trump abandoned the JCPOA to distance himself from President Barack Obama, who forged it, the Raisi team needs to find a formula to make the nuclear deal its own, and avoid any such thing. One that can salvage the legacy of its predecessor, Hassan Rouhani’s liberal administration. Results of a telephone survey conducted by Gallup This week shows Raisi enjoys widespread support for his policies so far, with more than 70 percent giving him positive marks.
Experts say that talks on Iran’s missile program and Washington’s talk about a return to the JCPOA with the support of armed groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen could frighten Iran. The JCPOA, which limited Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, has been criticized by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Washington Hawks for failing to address Iran’s other actions. If the US chooses to use nuclear talks to press for follow-on talks, Iran can calculate that its nuclear progress will benefit it.
“The sentiment in Tehran is that they will re-enter the talks, but they will strike a hard bargain,” said Ali Ahmadi, a political scientist at the University of Tehran.
“Iranian nuclear technology advances put the US, at least to some extent, on the same spot as Iran, which Iran did not get in terms of bargaining back in 2015,” he said. “It could set up the possibility of a greater-than-deal later, or at least level the playing field somewhat when the re-contract is wrapped up.”
Iran has increased its stockpile of enriched uranium to more than 10 times the limit imposed by the JCPOA and has begun enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, far more than what is allowed for reactor grade five percent or less of the deal. Is. It has also begun operating advanced centrifuges that produce more nuclear material at a faster rate, while complicating the efforts of inspectors to monitor the program under Tehran’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s sanctions remain largely in place. Talks in Vienna earlier this year were stuck over Iranian demands that they would not resume once sanctions are lifted, and requests that the White House only ask Congress to re-enact some of the sanctions. will not cancel.
“What the Iranians want is a written guarantee,” said the official close to the talks. “They want a guarantee that a change in administration will not bring back sanctions. But that is not possible in any democratic system.”
Iran says it is ready to resume talks. But in a television interview this week, Mr Raisi said he questioned whether the US was serious about reviving the JCPOA. “The preparedness to lift the sanctions could be a sign of their seriousness,” he said.
But in recent months international officials have begun to consider what the collapse of the JCPOA would mean…
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /