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Translation: Anis Al-Saffar
An Arab diplomat spoke to us, on condition of anonymity, warning that every day of procrastination wasted in talks aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal would mean further progress in Tehran's nuclear program and the Iranians gaining valuable time bringing them closer to the point of no return. On the 3rd of this January, Iran and the world powers revived the latest round of talks in Vienna. Despite this, there are still many sticking points, including in particular the position of Iran's neighbors in the region... those who are forced to live with it.
In the Middle East, there are serious concerns that Iran will try to impose the continuity of the status quo through talks and thus preserve its interests. The aforementioned Arab diplomat states that Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have accepted the idea of normalization with Iran, but the Iranian side is trying to exploit goodwill initiatives in an effort to maintain its position in Vienna while simultaneously gaining regional stability.
The first week of 2022 witnessed a number of attacks on American interests in Iraq, although this did not cause a drop of blood to fall.
The commander of one of the Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq spoke on condition of anonymity, indicating that the purpose of these attacks was to “deliver a strict message to the Americans while being careful not to shed blood, and the goal behind this is to prepare the scene for the second anniversary of the assassination of the Quds Force commander, General Qassem.” Soleimani and the leader of the popular crowd, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis. On the other hand, it is a show of force that the Iraqis want Iran to use at the negotiating table in Vienna to strengthen its position.
Whether in Iraq or in Vienna, it is clear that the two main parties, ie the United States and Iran, are now exchanging defiant looks despite their reluctance to sit down for direct negotiations, and each is trying to tilt the scales in his favour. At least that is the landscape as the region sees it.
While Iran insists on lifting all sanctions, along with the monitoring and verification regime, the United States and its European partners threaten to return Iran's file to the UN Security Council to implement the kickback mechanism, which means reactivating UN sanctions in addition to implementing EU sanctions.
An Iranian source says they too have heard of something like this, but they don't see it as a serious threat. Ali Fayez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group, believes the United States can still enforce this measure firmly and thus deepen Iran's economic woes and isolate it diplomatically through action. With the Europeans to reintroduce UN and EU sanctions together. Fayez explains that this is still possible despite the fact that the Trump administration has exhausted the maximum pressure that US sanctions can exert.
Since May 8, 2018, the date on which former President Donald Trump announced the United States' withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the United States has imposed and re-imposed hundreds of sanctions on Iranian entities and personalities.
“Trump’s imposition of unilateral secondary sanctions proves that the sanctions campaign does not have to be multilateral in order to achieve maximum pressure,” says Esfandiari Batmanglij, a visiting member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and Executive Director of Poor’s and Bazaar.
Batmanleg goes on to explain that the economic shock to Iran in 2018 was as severe as the one that followed the imposition of multilateral sanctions in 2012. “The important question for Iran is whether China will support regressive UN sanctions in the event of the nuclear talks failing. Because if China supports these measures by reducing its purchases of Iranian oil, the matter will have repercussions affecting the Iranian economy. However, China will not be willing to support a US-led sanctions regime in order to continue importing Iranian oil at reduced prices.
The Kepler market intelligence company stated in its reports that China imported approximately 18 million barrels of Iranian oil in October 2021 at a rate of approximately 600,000 barrels per day, despite the indication of Chinese official data that Beijing has not received oil from Tehran since December 2020. .
Back-strike sanctions are what the Trump administration wanted in August 2020 when Washington notified the UN Security Council that it was about to launch backlash UN sanctions against Iran, but the Security Council stopped the attempt because most of the 15 council members objected to the measure because the United States was the withdrawing party from the deal The year 2015 is nuclear, not Iran. The effects of such a move on the Iranian economy remain in doubt, but Iran's response to it may open the way towards a new crisis.
“This will give the Iranians an excuse to get the inspectors out of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and after that they will reduce their level of cooperation to the minimum and remove the surveillance cameras,” says Mohammad Marandi, a professor at Tehran University and an advisor to the Iranian negotiating team. Marandi warns that if this happens, the Europeans and Americans will need years before discovering the truth about what is going on in Iran.
Marandi explains that Iran has many options on the table. He says, "Iran can expand its nuclear program on multiple levels and in separate parts of the country, and it can escalate pressure on the United States outside its borders at a time when the latter feels the pressure of the need to reduce expenditures."
However, the expansion of the program, in Fayez's view, may push the United States and Israel (or both in isolation from the other) to take military action in the coming months. Because Israel has been constantly warning that it will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb. It has also been reported on several occasions that the United States and Israel are considering their options and have a plan B if the talks end in deadlock.
But Fayez believes there is a third option. He says, “If the parties fail to find a path to return the nuclear deal to its destination, the only way to prevent a dangerous military confrontation will be by concluding an interim agreement that would allow the diplomatic clock more time.” But a gradual interim deal is not on the table, says Marandi , who continues: “There are no discussions about an interim deal, as Iran wants a full implementation of the JCPOA, but it will not be like the previous implementation. In other words, it is the Americans who refrained from continuing with the deal, while the Iranians this time are the ones who say it is not the right option for them.
Iranian officials have made clear on numerous occasions that they are in no rush to just reach any deal, but rather that they would rather remain without a deal than accept a deal that does not meet their terms. However, Batmanglij believes that Iran, despite its seeking to obtain assurances and guarantees regarding the easing of sanctions, after the lessons it learned from implementing the JCPOA in 2016 and the withdrawal of the United States from it in 2018, has also realized that many of the expected benefits from the deal have not materialized due to the continuation of sanctions. As it is, and that the desired benefits from the deal as a whole can be erased if the United States withdrew unilaterally.
For this reason, and in order to strengthen its economic defenses, Iran will need a technical approach to easing sanctions that ensures that trade and investment can flow more quickly and that the returns of this economic transaction are more permanent and stable.
This will not be easy, according to Batmanglj, but he believes that the experience of easing sanctions in 2016 has proven to us that many economic gains begin to materialize automatically as soon as sanctions are lifted without the need for additional political interventions by the parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Batmanglij concludes, “Iran can expect to sell more oil, do more business and regain its ability to dispose of its financial assets, and all of this will revitalize the economy and allow plenty of time for the technical side to complete the most challenging and difficult deals, such as investments In the oil and auto industry sectors that failed during the period 2016 to 2018.
Ali Hashem/For “Al-Monitor”
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