Biden’s Policy on JCPOA Unsustainable

The Biden administration may be considering a “temporary agreement” as a middle way to contain the situation surrounding the nuclear deal, the former diplomat said
Biden’s Policy on JCPOA Unsustainable
Biden’s Policy on JCPOA Unsustainable

The United States’ current policy regarding the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran is not sustainable, according to a former Iranian diplomat. 
Hossein Mousavian said in an article for Responsible Statecraft that the administration of US President Joe Biden is possibly considering a “temporary agreement” as a middle way to contain the situation surrounding the deal, but that would not be the best solution. 
“This would be consistent with the Biden administration’s recent policy of ‘No Deal, No Crisis’ with Iran, in which the administration is also trying to avoid a major military conflict,” he wrote. 
The US and Iran were parties to a multinational nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which lifted sanctions on Tehran in return for sanctions relief. 
The JCPOA unraveled when former US president Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 and reimposed tough sanctions that prompted Iran to scale down its commitments. 
Indirect negotiations to revive the deal began in early 2021 in Vienna, Austria, after the administration of new US President Joe Biden came to power. 
The talks, however, have been stalled since last August, when the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, put forward a final agreement to revive the deal, but failed to obtain both sides’ signature. 
Mousavian said the United States and Europe are now faced with three policy options, the first of which is the aforementioned “temporary agreement” or Plan B. 
Such an agreement would most probably involve a freeze on critical parts of Iran’s nuclear program and reductions in its stockpile of highly enriched uranium in exchange for limited relaxation of US sanctions.
“Iran has already rejected this option because it would lose the bargaining leverage provided by its stock of highly enriched uranium in exchange for limited sanction relief in an unsustainable temporary agreement,” he said. 
Under a more realistic version of this option, Iran would demand sanctions lifted on both its financial institutions and oil exports in return for reestablishing its voluntary compliance with the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. 
However, it is unlikely that the Biden administration would agree on lifting sanctions on Iran’s financial institutions and oil exports as part of a temporary agreement, according to Mousavian. 
He said a temporary agreement would not be a sustainable solution in any case.



Major Risk 

The second option that is under consideration by European parties would be resorting to the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism, which could culminate in a so-called snapback of international sanctions against Tehran. 
France, UK and Germany have recently held a meeting with 10 non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the snapback mechanism.
Mousavian said this scenario could have major risks as Iran may respond by withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty which allows the IAEA to monitor its nuclear materials.
Moreover, while current relations between the EU and Iran already are experiencing unprecedented tensions, any EU initiative to activate the snapback mechanism would be a nail in the coffin of bilateral historical relations with Europe and the West, he added. 
The third and best option would be for Iran and the US to resume direct negotiations, compromise on some confidence-building measures to contain tensions and revive the JCPOA based on the August 2022 draft agreement, according to the expert. 
“Simultaneously, to address regional issues, a dialogue should be started between Iran other Persian Gulf countries,” he said. 
The recent agreement to reestablish diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia has created a golden opportunity to start a regional dialogue on collective security, according to Mousavian. 
“Such a dialogue could result in agreements to cooperate on security of energy and maritime issues in the Persian Gulf, Arab-Persian rapprochement, and resolving the regional crises in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq,” he said.
Mousavian stressed in the end that that President Biden should not let the quixotic quest for a better deal kill the JCPOA, which is most comprehensive non-proliferation agreement in history. 
He underlined that the death of the JCPOA would block opportunities for creating a new security and cooperation mechanism in the Persian Gulf, enhancing sustainable peace and facilitating the path to a regional zone free of all weapons of mass destruction.

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