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Reviving Iran Nuclear Deal difficult but possible

By Mohammad Javad Mousavizadeh

Joe Biden’s winning in the United States presidential election 2020 made a hope to revive the Iran nuclear deal and reducing of tensions between the U.S and Iran, but there are many dissidents and obstacles to returning to deal in two countries and the Middle East. While there are efforts to revive it by diplomacy, reviving the deal gets harder day by day in the last days of Trump’s administration until Jan 20, 2021.

Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed in 2015 by the U.S, the European Union, E3, China, Russia, and Iran. In the following, Trump withdrew the U.S from the deal on May 8, 2018. Also, he imposed crippling sanctions against Iran’s economy. The sanctions have reduced Iran’s income from oil export significantly, and Iran’s currency has lost %60 of its value. That’s why Iran’s benefits have lost in the deal, and Iran had warned that the country reduces its commitments concerning JCPOA. So, Iran reduced its commitments in several steps one by one, and the deal residual almost has dead.

But Trump’s defeat in the U.S presidential election has made hopes to revive the deal. Biden opposed Trump’s policies about Iran nuclear deal during the election competition and said “If Iran moves back into compliance with its nuclear obligations, I would re-enter the JCPOA as a starting point to work alongside our allies in Europe and other world powers to extend the deal’s nuclear constraints.” Also, members of Biden’s foreign policy team, such as Tony Blinken, Pete Buttigieg, Jake Sullivan, and Daniel Beniaim, believe which getting out of Iran’s nuclear deal was a big mistake because it was working. They want to return to deal and work with European allies; therefore, Iran’s officials have stated their readiness to return commitments if the U.S lift the sanctions. Biden can lift the sanctions on his first day in office, but it will not be easy because there are severe disagreements and obstacles in the two countries and the Middle East.

Trump administration is the first obstacle to revive the deal. Trump continues maximum pressure on Iran during its final days in office. He also trying to issue the new sanctions against Iran that these actions will cause trouble to make an immediate return to the deal. Republican dissidents argue the JCPOA is not enough, and they are worried about other issues such as Iran’s missile program and regional activities. Also, some observers say if Republicans win the 2024 U.S election; it is possible that they withdraw the agreement again.

Israel is the second impediment. When JCPOA was signed in 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a sharp critic of the deal. He sends now messages continuous to Biden directly and indirectly that returning to JCPOA is not acceptable. “There must be no return to the previous nuclear agreement. We must stick to an uncompromising policy to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said in a speech in southern Israel. Another dissident is Saudi Arabia as a big power in the Middle East and Islam world. Saudi Arabia’s officials always have been the opposite of the nuclear Iran activity in the region. Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Nations Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said “the incoming U.S administration is not inexperienced enough to return to the JCPOA.” He then called for negotiations for a new deal with the Islamic Republic involving his country. Al-Mouallimi dismissed the idea that the United States would re-enter the nuclear deal with Iran under Biden’s administration.

Moreover, the assassination of Iranian scientist MR.Fakhrizadeh puts obstacles on the road to reviving the deal by diplomacy because it will bring Iran’s probable reaction against Israel that accused of killing Fakhrizadeh. Actually, any new tension will block the path of diplomacy between Iran and the West. That’s why some political analysts strongly believe that dissidents of reviving the deal had planned the assassination.

But domestic opposition is the major problem for Iran’s government to revive the deal. Some principlists as hardliners of Iran are severe dissidents of the deal.  They were disagreement with the deal since 2015, and now they attempt to limit any negotiation between Rouhani’s government and Biden administration.  They have the majority of seats in parliament, and they approved recently a bill that would suspend U.N. inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities if European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal do not provide relief from oil and banking sanctions. They approved the bill and chanted with a loud voice “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel.”

After that, President Hasan Rouhani said “the approved bill in parliament is harmful to diplomacy.” In fact, the main challenge in Iran to revive the deal is domestic constraints that hardliners don’t want the current President to get the achievement in his last opportunities in the office because it can to reduce victory chance of them in the next presidential election. Also, some dissidents strongly believe that the U.S must compensate for the sanctions financially before any renegotiation.

It a clear, there is no daylight to revive the deal now, but there are hopeful efforts by diplomats. The positive point is being two expert teams that both known together since several years ago during the past negotiate. But two sides want the first step to being taken by the other. Biden says if Iran back to its commitments; we will back to JCPOA. On another side, Iran’s officials say lifting the sanctions is the precondition of backing our nuclear commitments. Maybe two sides should step their actions at the same time because Iran’s government does not much time for a long discussion. Also, the European signatories of the deal can be the savior of the deal. They have scrambled to save the deal for long times in years ago. Especially, French President Emmanuel Macron has been trying to save the deal or revive it but his past effort during Trump’s presidency was not fulfilling. The European countries have been critics for withdrawing from the deal by Trump in last years, and now Joe Biden President-elect is dissident to unilateral decisions in the world. However, Iran’s people are hopeful that their economic problems will solve by reducing conflicts by reviving the deal in the future.

Mohammad Javad Mousavizadeh is an Iran-based journalist and researcher writing on foreign affairs. 

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