Contrary to hopes that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seeks a swift revival of the 2015 nuclear deal before Tehran’s new hard-line government comes into place next month, US and European officials now believe that success or failure is in the hands of the new President Ebrahim Raisi.
Iran now appears unwilling to resume negotiations on the reintroduction of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) until Raisi replaces moderate Hassan Rouhani as Iranian president next month, according to a senior US official. Over the past few weeks, some participants in the ongoing talks in Vienna have said they believed Khamenei would want to sign a treaty before Rouhani resigned, thus creating a public backlash to a compromise – only a partial lifting of US sanctions – Raisi, Khameneis likely Anointed, not politically harmful would inheritance as supreme leader.
Contrary to hopes that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could seek a swift revival of the 2015 nuclear deal before the new hard-line government is installed in Tehran next month, US and European officials now believe success or failure in the hands of the new President Ebrahim Raisi.
Iran now appears unwilling to resume negotiations on the reintroduction of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) until Raisi replaces moderate Hassan Rouhani as Iranian president next month, according to a senior US official. Over the past few weeks, some participants in the ongoing talks in Vienna have said they believed Khamenei would sign a treaty before Rouhani resigned, thus creating a public backlash to a compromise – only a partial lifting of US sanctions – Raisi, Khamenei’s likely anointed Having no political harm would inherit as supreme leader.
But that doesn’t seem to be happening now, and further delays will only make a final deal difficult, if not impossible. Some observers believe Iran is now exaggerating in hopes that its technological advances in fortification will force Americans to compromise.
“This could ruin the deal,” said Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group, a former close associate of US chief negotiator Robert Malley. âThe Raisi team might believe that the time is on Iran’s side and that they can ramp up the nuclear program much faster than the US / EU can counter with sanctions. … That would be a big misjudgment. “
The current Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, one of the chief architects of the 2015 agreement, is already in the process of handing over Tehran’s negotiating mandate to his as yet undisclosed successor. “You are forming a new negotiating committee,” said a European diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
US President Joe Biden’s team, meanwhile, is reluctant to give up any more compromises than Tehran already has to. At the same time, Iran has used the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the deal in 2018 to steadily improve its uranium enrichment capability and move closer to building a bomb – exactly the kind of steps the deal had prevented Iran before.
“The Iranians want sanctions to be eased, but are building up the pressure as their nuclear program progresses,” said Dennis Ross, a former senior US diplomat now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. âThey will continue to advance their program, enrich it with advanced centrifuges, enrich it to 60 percent, produce uranium metal and restrict the IAEA’s access. … They want sanctions, even if they want to show that they are in no hurry. “
If the stalemate is prolonged, the return to the JCPOA could become obsolete as the restrictions of the original deal will no longer be able to adequately contain Iran’s nuclear advances. Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had previously negotiated an extension of the inspection protocols, but was unable to do so a third time. Should Iran fail to resolve its outstanding problems with the IAEA by September, when the agency’s board of governors meets, these violations would be reported to the UN Security Council. This could lead to a withdrawal of UN sanctions, which will bring Iran and the Western powers back to where they were before the Biden government tried to revive the pact.
A key issue is that Tehran is so advanced in its technical development, particularly its new, much faster IR-9 centrifuge that it is currently testing, that the time for a bomb to break out has been reduced to a point that is beyond the regulations fulfilled the 2015 deal may no longer apply. To make matters worse, Raisi was sanctioned by the United States for his involvement in the execution of thousands of dissidents in the late 1980s and another violent crackdown in 2009. His government will likely call for such sanctions to be lifted, but this will be politically difficult for Biden.
Biden himself, busy finding a deal on Capitol Hill over its infrastructure and other major spending plans, is in no mood to accommodate Tehran.
“The next three months will be crucial for Biden’s domestic agenda and presidency. He doesn’t need any distractions. If I were Biden’s political advisor, I would want to take this agreement slowly, âsaid Aaron David Miller of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. âThere is no political advantage to him in reaching an agreement, and almost no leeway or advantage for it. Republicans hate it and will use the new president – the hanging judge of Tehran – to pound Biden; too many influential Democrats don’t like it either. “
Iran is calling for Washington to lift all sanctions former President Donald Trump imposed as “poison pills” to ensure the 2015 deal can never be revived. This includes more than 700 sanctions imposed outside of the nuclear pact that aim to break the Iranian economy and humiliate its leadership, particularly key figures in Khamenei’s office and against Khamenei himself. The Biden team has hinted that it is not all this will remove.