Over the last two weeks, there have been many discussions about the JCPOA and its future, which require more thought and contemplation. Among them are the US and French positions in this regard. Based on past experience, Iran wants a US guarantee not to exit the agreement. The US says it is impossible and illegal for the current administration to give such a guarantee. This means that not only the previous agreement but the present agreement is with the ruling party and any party in the US which comes to power has the right to decide to continue or stop the implementation of the agreement as it wishes.
Let’s assume this argument from the US side, based on past experience (Trump withdrawal from the JCPOA), is right in the US decision-making system. Here the question is if the US will grant this right to the other sides of the JCPOA, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, or not. If we grant Iran, too, this right, the present government in Iran is fully entitled to ignore the past agreements and ask for a new agreement or amendment of paragraphs of the previous agreement. In this event, the faults that the American and European side find with Iran’s new proposals are baseless according to their own logic. This is while Iran’s amendments presented by Iran are not related to the agreement itself but to the agreed draft which has not yet been finalized.
But the argument’s problem does not end here. If we reduce the JCPOA to a political agreement at the level of the ruling parties and administrations, we have to naturally expect, with each election in each of the parties’ countries, this agreement be exposed to violations. Seven countries are member to the JCPOA and it is not far from reality that each year we see a political change and shift of power among the ruling parties. This argument of the American side renders the nuclear agreement into an instable one whose negotiating value is questioned and Iran’s most important request that is lifting of sanctions will not be met by such an agreement.
With the current government of the US’s logic, the republican senator, Tom Cotton’s threat to tear up a new agreement, in case the republicans win the 2024 elections, must be taken seriously. This threat and argument reminds all the parties, instead of rushing to achieve an agreement, to think of ways to make the nuclear agreement more sustainable. It is not in the interest of any of the parties to the JCPOA and the NPT to make an agreement on a weak base. Cotton’s prediction may come true, but the next negotiations that will inevitably convene will not be about the number of centrifuges and percentage of enrichment. Iran does not play the Snakes and Ladders to see itself once in a few years back to square one.
To achieve a sustainable agreement on the regional and international level, it is probably necessary to think more about the French president’s proposal. Macron has asked for participation of some Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia in the nuclear negotiations. Although it seems that these statements are merely meant to appease Saudi officials, assume some Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel want to be in the nuclear negotiations, in which case, they, too, must be as ready as Iran to be transparent about their nuclear activities and put their nuclear program under the IAEA’s control. This proposal means tying agreement with Iran to nuclear-arms –free Middle East, which has not had any progress and whose main obstacle is the US and its main ally.
A concern that the American and European side airs concerning Iran’s nuclear program is about nuclear proliferation. Linking this concern to Iran’s nuclear program is completely irrational. Israel’s nuclear program has a longer age than that of Iran and the Saudis developed their nuclear program when Iran for decades had abandoned its. If France wants nuclear-arms –free Middle East, and asks for addressing nuclear proliferation concerns, it should encourage its friends and allies to more actively participate in the process of nuclear-arms –free Middle East, not join the nuclear negotiations with Iran. As progress in the current Iranian nuclear talks will help the subject of a nuclear-arms –free Middle East, progress in the process of a nuclear-arms –free Middle East, too, can strengthen the JCPOA’s sustainability.
Political and media propaganda shows that the American and European side are hurried to achieve a nuclear agreement, and to this end, magnify the threat of a nuclear Iran, which in practice does not exist. The IAEA‘s 16 reports, following the JCPA agreement, have proved Iran’s peaceful intentions. Now it is America, which for what the former administration did, is sitting in the dock, and has not even been granted the permission to join the negotiations. Europe and America, due to their behavior in recent years regarding the JCPA, have to prove their peaceful intentions. If the new round of negotiations is meant to achieve a testable and sustainable agreement, it is necessary that it restrict and control moody behavior of people like Trump, who are not few, as much as it restricts Iran’s nuclear program.
Nabi Sonboli, Senior Expert of IPIS
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)