Iran nuclear deal faces a deadlock again - GulfToday

Iran nuclear deal faces a deadlock again

Iran-US nuclear deal.

Illustrative image.

After months of hopeful negotiations, mainly indirect talks between Washington and Tehran, the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which was dropped by the United States when Donald Trump was president in 2018, is facing fresh trouble. First, there is the tiff between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA wanted credible answers from Iran about traces of enriched uranium at three of its sites. Iran said that the demand was politically motivated, and refused to cooperate.

But on Monday, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said, “Iran announces it constructive cooperation with the agency as its obligation…While Iran has obligations, it also has rights.” Kanaani also said, “The agency should preserve its capability. Naturally Iran expects constructive actions from IAEA and the members of its governing board.” Second, France, Germany and Britain have expressed “serious doubts” about Iran’s intention regarding its nuclear programme, which is a last-minute hurdle for the revival of the deal. The three countries in a statement on Saturday said that Iran was not grabbing the “critical diplomatic opportunity” and that it “continues to escalate its nuclear programme way beyond any plausible civilian justification.” Thirdly, Israel Prime Minister Yair Lapid made explicit Israel’s opposition to the revival of the deal. Lapid told his cabinet before he left for Germany to pressure European leaders not to go ahead with the Iranian deal, “Israel is conducting a successful diplomatic campaign to stop the nuclear agreement and prevent the lifting of sanctions on Iran. It is not over year. There is a long way to go, but there are encouraging signs.” Meanwhile, Kanaani described the statement of the European powers as “unconstructive,” and said, “Both the US and Europe should prove that they do not prioritise the interests of the Zionist regime (Israel) when taking political decision.”

The issue is quite complicated. Iran wants the revival of the deal but it does not want to be seen as accepting all the hard conditionalities that the Western powers and the IAEA want to impose on its nuclear programme. The Western powers, especially the United States, after President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, recognise the fact that it is better to have a deal with Iran, which would give the IAEA and the West some oversight on the Iranian nuclear programme. Israel is opposed to a deal of any kind with Iran because it thinks that Iran is moving towards making an atomic bomb, and that Israel’s very existence is threatened because of Iran’s ideological opposition to the state of Israel. Tehran, however, avers that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.

What is lacking between all the negotiating parties – Iran, the Western powers, the IAEA, and Israel – is the element of trust. The IAEA, the Western powers and Israel are not convinced that the Iranian nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes. Tehran’s sometimes hard position makes it difficult for the others to believe the Iranian position. The possible way out could be an understanding, direct or indirect, between Tel Aviv and Tehran, about the Iranian nuclear programme, and an assurance from Iranian leaders that despite Tehran’s ideological opposition to Zionism and Israel, Iran does not have the inimical intention of harming Israel militarily. It is not clear how much the Western powers are willing to entertain the apprehension of Israel over Iran. Though the Jewish lobby is very influential both in the US and in Europe, the Western powers have their own independent strategic calculations for dealing with Iran. Most importantly, Iran should be convincing its Arab neighbours that its nuclear programme would not disturb the regional balance of power.

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