Indirect dialogs between Iran’s government and the US in six rounds of nuclear negotiations have finally resulted in a draft document – a document with a text and three appendices, including the lifting of the sanctions, nuclear actions, and executive plans.
Unofficial reports from the talks also show that during these six rounds of talks, the United States agreed to cancel or suspend sanctions in six sectors (energy, petrochemicals, banking, motor industry, shipping, and insurance), as well as 748 names and positions. Of the total sanctions imposed during the Trump era, 517 remain. Which are mostly defined in the areas of terrorism, missiles, human rights, cyber activities, and elections, and of course the Biden administration is by no means willing to abolish them.
The most important remaining sanction in this area is the extension of the arms embargo on Iran based on Executive Order 13949 on September 21, 2020.
However, there are no encouraging signs from Vienna as the Iranian government is expecting it and some of its media are reflecting, and it looks like a challenging atmosphere in Iran-West relations will emerge in the next week or two.
The fact is that the Biden administration has a completely different strategy than the Obama administration that the regime has expected and dreamed to be realized since the start of the Biden administration. The big difference between the two governments goes back to the two keywords.
At the heart of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy was the keyword ‘sequence’; In other words, this administration was committed to resolving its problems with Iran ‘step by step’, but this strategy was delayed due to internal opposition in Washington, regional conflicts, and chronic pessimism in Tehran’s malign activities in many fields.
So, the JCPOA was dead even before the Trump administration decided to withdraw it in May 2018. For that reason and mainly Iran’s secrecy and malign activities which did not decrease even in the JCPOA the Biden administration decided to focus its work on this keyword: ‘simultaneous’.
‘Critically, from the start, such an approach must take into account both regional and nuclear issues and be clear its values and will include both in its diplomatic efforts in a simultaneous, rather than sequential approach.’ (Center for a New American Security, August 4, 2020)
In other words, the JCPOA’s experience showed that problems with Iran cannot be solved step by step or consecutively; That is, solving a problem does not have the ability to spread collaborations to other areas.
The strategy was set out in a roughly 10,000-word report that Ilan Goldenberg and his colleagues delivered to Biden and Jake Sullivan in August 2020 and was later accepted by the Biden administration.
Why? Because the Biden administration has accepted to lose one of its main levers to persuade Iran for an understanding with the world powers, especially the US. At the same time, the team is aware that any of the US’s problems with Iran are very complex and require a relatively long time to resolve, even most of them like the human rights, Iran’s interference in the middle east, support of terrorism and its missile project is unsolvable.
And that exactly has started the domino of Gordian knots.
From the reports that have been published so far, it can be concluded that the United States, after showing its determination to lift or suspend more than a thousand sanctions which were mostly reflected by the Iran regime’s media from the fourth round of talks, suddenly entered a new agenda in the Vienna talks, and the topic was ‘future collaborations’.
From the US point of view, these collaborations include three clauses:
- Development of economic relations with Iran
- More steps to build trust and prolong relationships
- Regional security (Middle East)
But Robert Malley’s team, to put diplomatic and political pressure on Iran to accept these issues, said that the lifting of two prestige sanctions from the view of the Iranian regime is subjected to the inclusion of these clauses into the final Vienna document.
But what are these two prestige sanctions that the Iranian regime seeks to be lifted?
- First, the removal of the IRGC name from the terrorist list of the US states government
- Second, the lifting of the regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s sanctions
Noteworthy is that accepting the collaborations mentioned above with the US officially will force the Iranian regime to step back from its hostility with the US and the Western World which has started with the Iran-US hostage crisis in 1979, which is the base of the regime’s policy in the last 42 years. And the regime understands stepping back from this policy will lead to its end, finally, the effects would be accepting issues like human rights laws and principles accepted globally.
But the Iranian regime as expected did not accept which is very clear from its actions in the past weeks especially in the field of its nuclear progression and the attacks of its proxy forces in the Middle East.
So, Washington has stepped up its pressure in the political and field spheres so that the regime accepts this text negotiated.
These pressures included:
- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “There will come a point, yes, where it will be very hard to return back to the standards set by the [deal],” Blinken told reporters. “We haven’t reached that point – I can’t put a date on it – but it’s something that we’re conscious of.” Blinken warned that if Iran “continues to spin ever more sophisticated centrifuges” and steps up uranium enrichment, it will bring nearer the “breakout” time at which it will be dangerously close to the ability to develop a nuclear bomb.” (The Guardian, June 26, 2021)
- Statement by the three European countries following the meeting of the Board of Governors on 9 June.
- IAEA’s report dated 31 May.
- Finally, the remarks of the Secretary-General of the IAEA have intensified in the last two weeks.
- The United States has also stepped up its field pressures in recent days, including Biden’s order to attack the Iran regime’s proxy forces on the Iraqi Syrian border.
And Iran’s regime tried to play its own cards contrary to these actions which included:
- Neither renewal nor termination of the interim agreement with the IAEA.
- Restricting the Agency inspectors’ access to the uranium enrichment site in Natanz.
- Emphasizing Washington’s assurances that it will not withdraw from the JCPOA.
But the time is against the Iranian regime and is deepen the regime’s deadlock, why? Because this regime has accumulated 3.241kg of enriched uranium which puts the regime in a critical situation, which is not negotiable, and as the US president Joe Biden many times emphasized that they will not let Iran’s regime become a nuclear power and producing nuclear bombs.
And as the process of this event shows the US government will be not satisfied just with such tactical actions and finally will face Iran’s regime with harder and strategical actions, which included:
- Joint US-European sanctions against Iran and several Chinese refineries that have bought oil from Iran (China has bought 950,000 barrels of oil a day from Iran since March).
- Maximum action to activate the Snapback mechanism and return all resolutions before 2231 by Europe and put Iran back under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.
- And in the field, sabotage and even destruction of Iran’s nuclear facilities as we saw in the past 10 months.
For these reasons, the likelihood of an agreement is becoming weaker than ever, even impossible after Ebrahim Raisi an ultra-hardliner was selected by Khamenei as the next president and aligned with this the appointment of Mohseni-Eje’i another ultra-hardliner as the Judiciary Chief which blows all the hopes of the ‘Western World’ to see a ‘soft and moderate’ government which in Iran which is tolerable with just a few human rights errors.
Here someone can claim that time would run against the US government and other world powers too, only if we exclude the extremely critical situation in Iran and the fury of the people which showed itself in the boycott of the presidential election. For this reason, we can say that playing with and stretching time is ultimately detrimental to the regime, having no strategic cards, its tactical cards will solve nothing, and even make the situation worse. And as many of its officials and state media are trying to show the increase of uranium enrichment as a strategic win card, this will become just its trap.