23.08.2022 Author: Valery Kulikov

Progress in JCPOA Talks has not Diminished the Number of Those Opposing It

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The emergence of real signs of a possible settlement of the most acute crisis in the Middle East is linked to the possible signing of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, which is based on numerous compromises, could become a major victory for international diplomacy that guarantees Iran’s non-nuclear status. The parties are expected to return to the original version of the JCPOA plan, but with minor changes, including those made to the timetable of the deal.

Various media outlets covering the progress of the negotiation process on signing an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program reveal some aspects of Washington and Tehran’s return to the upcoming nuclear deal through the capabilities of their sources.

For example, CNN, citing a senior US administration official, announced that Tehran was reportedly refusing to give up “the main obstacle in the effort to restore the JCPOA” – the demand to exclude the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the list of “terrorist organizations” in the United States.

Qatar TV broadcaster Al Jazeera opens the curtain on EU proposals to lift sanctions on 17 Iranian banks and 150 business organizations, as well as on the exports of Iranian oil (120 days after signing, Tehran will be able to export 2.5 million barrels of oil a day) and the release by South Korea of seven billion dollars in frozen funds owned by Iran. The draft JCPOA agreement between Europe and Tehran calls for four phases, each lasting 60 days. In return, Tehran will begin to gradually withdraw from its nuclear plans from the very day the document is signed. At the same time, according to the European proposal to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, Washington will have to pay a “financial penalty” if the United States decides to withdraw from the JCPOA.

Although the issue of possible “compensations” for Iran in the event of another possible breach of the updated JCPOA by Washington has been discussed, it is nevertheless not entirely clear what these “compensations” might consist of. So far, they are only political statements and empty words that will not help Iran in any way. And the various “expressions of regret” previously voiced by the EU and other countries after the US pulled out of the JCPOA under Trump have done nothing to mitigate the impact of US sanctions, which companies and banks from Europe and other regions obediently followed. Therefore, Tehran’s particular interest in financial and economic compensation is quite understandable. Especially considering that the main problem with the JCPOA today is that US administrations seeking a JCPOA cannot get through Congress and make commitments, and that means that the next US presidential administration can easily abandon it accordingly, and such threats to put and end to a possible agreement with Iran are heard regularly in the United States. Especially from prominent representatives of the Republican camp. One example is former Vice President Mike Pence’s visit in June to the Albanian National Council of Resistance of Iran, where he signaled that a possible “nuclear deal” would not last long.

Nevertheless, the unfolding of events today in preparation for the conclusion of the JCPOA gives every reason to hope for an acceleration of the negotiation process with a concrete outcome that, according to various estimates, is quite realistic within a few days, up until the US Congressional elections on November 8. Moreover, the US media emphasize that US President Joe Biden is expected to sign this updated agreement on the JCPOA in order to demonstrate his success in winning the midterm congressional elections and influencing the course of the future presidential campaign in a favorable way. US and French Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron, as well as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, have already spoken out against Iran’s nuclear program and expressed their commitment to concluding a JCPOA agreement.

According to Israeli media reports, former IDF intelligence chief Tamir Heyman has also stated that he supports the nuclear agreement because it is essential to delaying Iran’s nuclear program. However, these statements by a former Israeli military officer are at odds with the stated position of the Israeli government, which opposes the conclusion of the agreement by any means necessary and views it as a trigger for Iran to begin its targeted activities to develop a nuclear bomb. As The Times of Israel reported on August 19, Heyman, in explaining his position on the JCPOA, stated that Israel must “buy time” until it has the opportunity to deal Iran a blow large enough to prevent the emergence of a full-scale regional conflict. He added that an Iranian violation of the deal would increase the likelihood of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities by a coalition of Western powers and legitimize Israel’s actions in that direction.

As per Israeli media, after CNN reported on August 20 that Iran had reportedly abandoned its demand that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be removed from the list of terror-supporting countries and portrayed the Iranian concession as a success of US diplomacy, the London-based and Saudi-funded Iranian opposition broadcaster Iran International published a list of concessions the United States has made to reach an agreement with Tehran. Citing the head of Tehran’s negotiating team, Ali Bagheri Kani, the opposition broadcaster said that in return for Iranian concessions on the IRGC, the United States has agreed to waive sanctions on US companies and citizens doing business with organizations affiliated with the IRGC, including in the petrochemical industry.

The said Iran International publication on the US concessions, as well as the previous contradictions in Washington and Tel Aviv’s positions on the advisability of concluding an updated JCPOA, have further deteriorated relations between Israel and the United States. According to the US news website Axios, White House officials have been forced in recent days to reassure Israeli counterparts that the United States has not made any concessions to Iran; on the contrary, Tehran has met with Washington and agreed to abandon its demand that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be removed from the US list of terrorist organizations. However, the current Israeli government is even more afraid than before of the consequences of this nuclear agreement due to the intensification of the ongoing political struggles in that country. In particular, the fact that the agreement, if finalized before the November elections, will allow opposition former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to criticize the current head of government Yair Lapid and change the current direction of political forces in Israel. This concern was even raised in Washington on August 23 during a meeting between the head of Israel’s National Security Council, Eyal Hulata, and US Assistant Secretary for National Security Jake Sullivan. Nevertheless, Israel points out that despite the contradictions on the nuclear agreement issue, Tel Aviv reportedly does not yet intend to go into a public confrontation with the United States, as it did in 2015 when the JCPOA was concluded and as Netanyahu did with Obama.

Valery Kulikov, an expert in political science, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.


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