Confluence of Factors May Impede Nuclear Deal

Confluence of Factors May Impede Nuclear Deal
Confluence of Factors May Impede Nuclear Deal

In a recent article published by the Hill, the writer says Iran and the West need to work harder than ever to reach a settlement over Tehran’s nuclear program as “a confluence of factors” makes the window of opportunity to conclude a deal very brief.

Ellie Maruyama, who is a research associate with Energy, Environment and Security Program at Center for a New American Security, wrote, “The hardest stage of negotiations between these powers is occurring now, ahead of the March 1 deadline for a framework deal,” adding, “Iran and the West need to work harder than ever to reach a resolution.

“However, perpetual extension of negotiations is not politically or economically feasible. A confluence of factors—insufficient economic relief, (critics) in the US Congress and Iran, and ambitions of certain P5+1 members (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany)—makes the window of opportunity to conclude a deal very brief.”

The Hill is well-known for its focus on US policy, politics and election campaigns and is read by many US lawmakers and officials in the White House.    

“Under the current interim deal, economic relief is insufficient to satisfy Iran in the long term. In conjunction with low oil prices, President Hassan Rouhani’s promise to improve Iran’s economy would be compromised by a long-term continuation of the interim agreement,” she noted.

Tehran and the six major powers (the United Stated, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany) last November failed for a second time to meet a self-imposed deadline to reach a comprehensive settlement to the long-running dispute over Tehran’s nuclear work and decided to extend the negotiations on a final deal for seven more months until June 30.

They held a new round of talks in Geneva last month. The next round of the negotiations is scheduled to be held on January 18 in the Swiss city.  Maruyama pointed to the prospect of the US Congress imposing additional sanctions on Iran as another factor that could be a “threat to the conclusion of a final deal.”

She noted, “Unhappy with the current negotiations, members of Congress may impose new sanctions on Iran to urge a more rapid end to its nuclear program.

“Such a scenario would undermine one of the primary motivations that brought Iran to the negotiation table. Any new sanctions by the West would signal to Iran its lack of seriousness in making a deal and the closing of a pathway to economic relief.”

She said, “Internal politics in Iran will also not tolerate the status quo,” adding, “Some (critics) in Iran argue that the P5+1 need the deal more than Iran, which they assert remains strong in the face of punishing sanctions.”

“Iran’s success in affecting regional dynamics today buoys their confidence and emboldens anti-West political leaders. However, if negotiations drag on and promised economic relief does not materialize, (critics’) rhetoric may trump the voice of those who point to Iran’s economic vulnerability and need for a deal.  In the event of such a tilt in Iranian internal politics, the country may stray from nuclear diplomacy.”

 New Sanctions Could Split P5+1

In an editorial published on Saturday, the New York Times also pointed to “doubts” voiced by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on whether “the enemy” — America — could be trusted to really lift sanctions.

“His (Ayatollah Khamenei’s) skepticism is not unfounded. President Obama has the authority to temporarily ease sanctions on Iran, and he has done that to a limited extent by allowing Iran to receive about $700 million per month in assets frozen abroad under the terms of an interim nuclear agreement that has been in place since November 2013,” the newspaper said.

Under the preliminary nuclear accord with the major powers, which was signed in November 2013 in Geneva, Tehran agreed to temporarily scale down parts of its nuclear activities in exchange for a limited easing of sanctions.

“Even so, the power to permanently lift most sanctions lies with Congress, where many members deeply mistrust Tehran, and Republican leaders have said that new and stronger sanctions are near the top of their to-do list in the new Congress,” the paper added.

“But at this stage it could easily undermine the talks, split the major powers and propel Iran to speed its nuclear development.”