Russia and the US Helped the Demise of the Iran Talks
Russia and the US Helped the Demise of the Iran Talks
European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has declared a pause in the Iranian nuclear negotiations in Vienna, caused by “external factors.”
“A final text is essentially ready and on the table,” Borrell tweeted. “As coordinator, I will, with my team, continue to be in touch with all JCPOA participants and the US to overcome the current situation and to close the agreement.”
These vague words left the people of Iran and other observers in the world wondering: Why were the talks stopped? Were all the issues raised in almost a year of indirect Iranian-American talks already solved? What did he mean exactly by “a final text” being “ready and on the table”? Have the US and Iran reached an agreement on lifting the sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)? How about the sanctions on Ali Khamenei’s household? Or has Iran accepted the conditions put out there by the European Union and crossed its own red lines?
Until just a couple of weeks ago, before Russia’s military attack on Ukraine, there was no news of even relative agreements on the above-mentioned issues. Tehran had openly declared that it won’t cross its own red lines and has asked for lifting of all sanctions and US’s commitment to the continuation of the deal in future governments as a condition for reviving the Iran deal.
It would be very naive if we believed the “external factors” (which most guess to be linked to Russia) are the main reason for the pause in the talks or disruption of attempts at the JCPOA’s resurrection.
As the Western attempts to increase pressure on Russia heighten, and there is even a danger of a military confrontation with the Russians, the EU and the US do all they can to put the blame for all international conflicts on Russia.
The 2015 Iran deal had many shortcomings. I say this not as an opponent of Iran or an extremist in the West but as an expert of the regional geopolitics and international relations.
In the final months of his second administration, President Obama attempted to bring about this deal and finally inked it despite many existing criticisms of Tehran’s policies in the region and the conditions of human rights inside Iran.
The deal was not desired by the regional countries and Israel. It also failed to bring about the needs of the Iranian nation.
The deal came about but the Western countries showed no desire to be present in the Iranian market. As a dictatorship with a securitized regime, Iran is not considered a sure and stable market.
Following the nuclear deal, the relations of Iran with neighbors did not improve. Iran’s regional interventions and tensions created by IRGC-linked militias were not reduced.
In 2013, when a new round of nuclear talks began, Iran had a pre-condition to enter them: sticking to the nuclear program and not going beyond this issue.
Optimism about the outcome of the talks and how they could change Iranian behavior opened the way for the inking of the JCPOA in 2015. The deal was finally reached.
The next US president, Donald Trump, left the deal in 2018. We should ask a simple question: In more than two years that had passed since the deal, did Western countries respect their promises to support investment of foreign companies in Iran and create more jobs in Iran?
Or did the Iranian behavior change in the region? Did it stop supporting Houthi militias in Yemen or Lebanon’s Hezbollah? What happened to Iran’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain?
With the current regime, and given the political and security approach in Iran, how rational and practical is it to believe that the EU and US truly wanted to resurrect the previous deal?
The Iranian nuclear program has led to some serious concerns. If we are to believe the reports by the US security and military establishment, Iran is only a few weeks away from building the nuclear bomb. If there is such a worry in the West, it also exists for China and Russia. Russia, an ally of Iran, is now presented by the EU and the US as the indirect agent leading to the defeat of the talks in Vienna and is itself amongst the main opponents of arming Iran with a nuclear weapon.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine was prompted by its worries about Kyiv acquiring a nuclear weapon (since it has the knowledge for producing nuclear weapons and also the necessary nuclear plants) and also its joining of the EU which would mean a nuclear armed state close to Russian borders.
It is naive to consider Russia the reason for the collapse of the talks with the West just because it has asked a guarantee for exemptions from sanctions in return for inking the deal.
Russia has repeatedly voted yes to resolutions in the UN Security Council that condemn Iran. There is nothing it won’t do to stop Iran from becoming nuclear.
Russia’s demand from the US and the West that its commercial and technical deals with Iran be exempt from sanctions, should be seen alongside the West’s many worries about the return of the JCPOA. Russia has now given the West an easy way out of the dead-end it had reached in the nuclear talks: It can blame Moscow.
We should remember that the UN arms embargo on Iran already expired in October 2020 and the sunset clause will also kick in by 2025. These are serious worries for the US.
On January 11, 2022, 110 Congressmen wrote to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. They asked the Biden administration to leave the Vienna talks. This was less than two months ago. The letter explicitly asked for a deal without a sunset clause. The letter asked for increased pressure by US and partners on Iran to stop the progress in its nuclear program. It asked for the use of sanctions that would lead to negotiations for a better and harsher deal without any sunset clause.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the clash between the US and the West and Russia’s new demands in the Iran talks have now given an opportunity to the West to claim there is no possibility of the talks continuing.
In the current conditions, Iran won’t be able to blame the West for the disruption in the talks. The status quo now favors the West, the US and even Russia and China.
While it’s not clear how long the Ukrainian crisis can last, the increase in oil prices will take care of some of the immediate needs of the Iranian regime and its financial problems.
But the disruption of nuclear talks can lead to an uptick in tensions and more Iranian provocations in the region. Seizure of ships, tensions in the Arabian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, increased rocket and drone attacks by Houthis against countries of the region can all be part of the subsequent strategies by Iran and the IRGC to show their anger from the failure of the nuclear deal.
In such conditions, the Europeans will organize a new round of negotiations with Iran which will not need Russia. They’ll take care of the minimum demands of Iran and the West.
In the next three months, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will submit a new report about the questions raised following the observance of radioactive material in three undeclared regions. Following the responses by Iran, the full report will be sent to the Board of Governors. After that, we can expect new talks. In such talks, there will be no "sunset" clause, no repeal of the arms embargo and there will be banking and financial exemptions and an end to the boycott of Iranian oil. In response, the Iranian nuclear program will be limited and under the full supervision of the IAEA.
In simpler words, we can say that the Russian attack on Ukraine led to an opportunity for the sun to finally set on the JCPOA.