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After nearly 17 months of diplomatic wrangling, there may be hope for a nuclear deal with Iran. On Wednesday, US officials said they had sent back a response to Iran’s comments on an EU-led draft deal defending the 2015 deal on Tehran’s nuclear program. The trade of response documents could come ahead of another round of talks in Vienna aimed at restoring the terms of the original deal, which severely curbed Iran’s ability to enrich fissile material to weapons-grade levels in exchange for sanctions relief.

Those conditions were unilaterally broken in 2018 by former President Donald Trump, who rejected a deal brokered by the Obama administration and other international powers even though Iran was believed to be complying with its sanctions. That move was opposed by European, Chinese and Russian signatories of the deal, but was welcomed by regional powers united in their hostility to Iran – including Israel, led by then-right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Arab monarchy in Saudi Arabia. Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Trump administration, at the time, Claimed that Iran would not dare to resume Its inhibitory nuclear activity. But by 2019, Iran had installed high-speed centrifuges at its facilities and began enrichment activities that violated the strictures of the deal. Under the 2015 deal, the so-called “breakout” time for Iran to produce enough fuel for a potential nuclear bomb was measured in months, even closer to a year. Officials and analysts claim that it is now a matter of weeks.

Biden took office in 2021 pledging to return to the deal and rein in Iran’s prosperity boom. But domestic politics interfered in both countries – an immediate deal on sanctions relief for Iran was a non-starter in Washington, while hardliners in Tehran, who had long opposed the original agreement and doubted the value of any diplomacy with the Americans, were concerned. The so-called “reformist-pragmatist” camp of electoral governance. A poll of Iranian attitudes this summer found that fewer than half of Iranians surveyed believed the deal would be reinstated, while more than two-thirds expressed doubt that the United States would honor its commitments.

Robert Malley, Biden’s special envoy for Iran, warned in an interview with the New Yorker late last year that the Iranians were “emptying the non-proliferation benefits we agreed to.” He admitted that future diplomacy on the issue would be “like trying to bring a dead corpse back to life.”

The US responded to Iran’s latest demands to revive the nuclear deal

Clearly, the Biden administration doesn’t believe we’ve reached that point yet. But the prospect of reinstating the deal has revived the angry debate surrounding its initial brokering. Republican lawmakers have voiced their anger at any deal that lacks congressional oversight. David Barnia, head of Israel’s foreign intelligence agency Mossad, was quoted by Israeli media on Thursday as saying the deal would be “a strategic disaster”. The comments by Israel’s political elite, including Prime Minister Yair Lapid, prompted calls for the US to stay away from the negotiating table.

There is no small irony in their current objections. Haaretz journalist Amir Tibon wrote, “Despite clear consensus among Israel’s security and defense establishment at the time, Trump broke the deal in 2018 with Netanyahu’s goading. Now, he added, “some experts warn … that could be replaced by a deal that would be bad for Israel and create a more dangerous Middle East.”

“Opponents of the new deal in Israel and Congress say that lifting nuclear-related sanctions would allow Iran hundreds of billions of dollars to finance terrorist activities, and that some of its provisions would allow Iran to quickly expire. Revive plans to build nuclear weapons,” my colleague Karen DeYoung reported.

“Administration officials dispute the dollar calculation and say that reinstating limits on the Iranian nuclear program, even with some expiration dates, would provide years of respite from the imminent nuclear threat and space for further negotiations,” she added.

Iran nuclear talks have resumed

The Trump administration and its fellow travelers who hammered the deal are reaping what they sow. “His actions not only fueled war, but the Trump administration’s poor judgment allowed Iran to expand its nuclear program in unprecedented ways,” Holly Daggers, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told me. “Love or hate the JCPOA” – the acronym for the 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers – “is the best way to prevent Iran from potentially developing nuclear weapons.”

If Trump hadn’t pulled out of the deal, Dugrace added, the JCPOA would have continued with the “confidence-building exercise” involved, perhaps with negotiations on other fronts. “It’s unclear whether those discussions would have been constructive, but it’s safe to say that Iran would not be considered a nuclear threshold state as some people today,” she said.

Yet there is a parallel sense that the hawks in Washington got what they wanted. “On its own terms, [the Trump administration’s decision to leave the deal] has been very successful,” argues John Gazvinian, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Middle East Center.

It ruled out any possibility of rapprochement between Tehran and Washington, tightened cooperation between Israel and America’s Gulf allies, and raised the possibility of future covert Israeli or American action against Iran. New tensions emerged and defined an awkward state of play, from Iran’s own violent intrigues abroad and the extremism of its Middle East proxies to US retaliation, including this week’s attacks on Iran-backed groups in northeastern Syria.

Now, the Iranian regime and the Biden administration are simply “trying to secure their basic and immediate needs.” Ghazvinian told me. While the Biden administration wants to rein in Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Iran would welcome restrictions on its economy and oil exports.

Ghazvinian, author of “America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present,” noted that the world is in a different place than it was in 2015 or 2009 — when the Obama administration entered a diplomatic process with European partners and Russia and China over Iran’s nuclear arsenal. program “We’ve gotten bogged down in the details of the nuclear issue, judged it to death, and forgotten what the big issue is” — namely, he said, that the Obama administration believed the nuclear deal could lay the foundation for a broader policy. Dialogue addressing concerns over Iran’s destabilizing activities.

While that dialogue is nowhere to be seen, strategists in both countries have long shifted their priorities — in Washington, away from the Middle East; In Tehran, more accommodation with some of its neighbors and closer ties with China. Referring to the nuclear deal and the widening rift between the United States and Iran, Ghazvinian said it was difficult to “solve an exceptionally complex technical problem in the context of an exceptionally dysfunctional political environment.” “We need to go beyond the JCPOA, we need to pass it.”

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