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What Hope is There for a Nuclear Deal?

What Hope is There for a Nuclear Deal?

Monday, 20 June, 2022 - 11:00
Dr. Nassif Hitti
Former Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs

The current state of the nuclear deal negotiations (Also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) between Iran and the P5+1 could best be described as an “uneasy stalemate.”


The attempts to build bridges following the US withdrawal from the agreement during Trump’s term (May 2018), after he had accused it of not respecting its commitments, have not succeeded.


Both the attempts at mediation made by the European Union and the three European states that are part of the deal (France, Britain, and Germany) and the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency have hit a brick wall. Both the Western signatories and Iran are accusing the other side of violating the terms of the agreement: The Western signatories accuse Iran of not respecting the ceiling on the level of uranium enrichment stipulated by the agreement.


The IAEA has repeatedly asked Iran to explain the traces of uranium found on sites where its presence had not been declared, while Iran insists on refusing to comply with what it sees as new conditions added by the United States and its allies with their insistence on keeping the IRGC on the terror list. The attempt at finding a compromise on this point of contention, whereby the IRGC would be removed from the list while the Quds Force would remain on it, failed.


All the observers watching the developments agree that Iran has far exceeded the level of uranium enrichment stipulated by the agreement and that it is close- though the estimates for how long it would take range from weeks and months to a couple of years- to reaching what is known as the “nuclear threshold-” that is, possessing the capacity to build nuclear warheads (without necessarily doing so).


This compelled Israel to escalate, with its Prime Minister announcing that the country would follow the ‘Octopus Doctrine’ in facing the Iranian regime. Instead of merely hitting its “tentacles,” this doctrine calls for hitting the “the octopus in the head,” and its implications can be seen in the increase in targeted operations within Iran.


We should recall that this Israeli policy is part of what was historically known as the Ben Gurion Doctrine, which is based on Israel being the only country in the region with the capability to produce nuclear weapons. Israel believes that a nuclear arms race in the region would not be in its interest by virtue of geography, as well as the element of the various capabilities this implies. A Middle East with no weapons of mass destruction thus remains more than necessary for the region.


The nuclear deal negotiations’ stalemate has exacerbated political tensions in the region, with proxy confrontations escalating across the Middle East.


Everyone wants a nuclear deal because the alternative is entering uncharted territory. The dispute is over the amendments and guarantees demanded by both signatories and non-signatories. The dispute is also over how to link the reactivation of the deal with the establishment of regional and international settlements for hot button issues- which feed and feed off of the failure to revive the agreement- that would become part of the deal or create safeguards for it. Settlements tied to regional and national security are particularly relevant in this regard.


We need agreements on a shared framework for organizing and regulating relations between countries founded on respect for their sovereignty and commitment to non-interference in their domestic affairs, whatever the pretexts. We are witnessing a race between the rise of shared frameworks regulating the behavior of the various actors in the region and the flames spreading throughout the region.


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