The Iran Nuclear Deal: Is It Possible?

WORLD WATCH - Another attempt by western powers to salvage the Joint Comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA), commonly called the Iran Nuclear deal, resumes again in Vienna.

The refrains of this shattered US foreign policy dilemma are now the essence of the body politic in Washington, as the p5+1 countries of China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the United States attempt again to shell back sanctions on Iran’s energy sector and their commercial affiliates to reach a mutual compliance consensus.  But resuscitating the JCPOA at this Vienna talks faces daunting probabilities.

The goal of the JCPOA, signed in 2015,  was to stop Iran from creating nuclear fuel in fast next-generation centrifuges.  The main clause of the Iran nuclear deal was one wherein Iran agreed to stop pursuing nuclear weapons and allow for international checks on its facilities, in exchange for an agreement from the United States to roll back sanctions.   But outgoing President Trump vindicated the pact and reimposed crippling economic sanctions and a maximum pressure campaign -- a move that saw Iran enriching uranium to 60% purity near weapons-grade and the denial of inspectors into its nuclear sites.

Whereas the JCPOA is viewed as the most outstanding foreign policy achievement of the Obama era, the US - Iran relationship has entered a precarious and unpredictable terrain. Iran continues to overstep the agreement and strengthen its nuclear program.

Although Secretary of State Anthony Blinken believes that the diplomatic path will be the most effective way in these negotiations, it is clear that these talks will not deliver the mutual compliance with the JCPOA that the parties are looking for.  

For one, Iran successfully uses diplomacy to its benefit and continues to outsmart Washington, and now holds a more substantial hand at the table of nuclear negotiations. 

According to Iran’s nuclear   negotiator Ali   Bagheri, “there will be no negotiations on the nuclear accord at the Vienna talks   and that only US sanctions will be discussed.” 

At the same time, Iran’s malign ballistic programs and its intrusion by and support for proxy forces in the Middle East cannot go unnoticed.   Iran’s support of Hezbollah, Hamas, the Syrian regime of   Bashar   al- Assad, and other Shia groups in the Middle   East cannot be overlooked in these talks.  It is clear that Iran presents an explicit risk, especially at a time when the security of Israel cannot be resolved. 

Given these circumstances, it is crucial that these talks should also bring the security of Israel to the negotiating table as the United States is unable to deal with the controversy of Iran in Syria and Yemen on its own in the Middle East.   At this point, the talks should not be a return to the Obama policy of appeasement to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to Iran’s plans for regional hegemony, butalso to curb Iran’s malevolent behavior of aggression and proxy wars in the region as well.    

For sure, diplomacy is about cooperation but what are the implications for the Middle East regional stability and political economy in this Vienna talks?

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj of the European Council of Foreign Relations contends that “Iran’s new hard-line president Ebrahim Raisi is going to take a maximalist approach in the negotiations at Vienna.” This attitude demonstrates that Washington and Iran’s badly broken political trust in this nuclear deal is far from over. According to Senator Ted Cruz, “it is a 100% certainty, that any future Republican president will tear it up.”

Hereby, the questions of the JCPOA persists.  Can the US deliver what Iran wants at a time when the November 2022 US   congressional midterms loom, and the high pitch of bi-partisan anti- Iran fervor in Washington is making the prospect and compromise with Iran even more aloof?  Does Mr. Biden have the political capital to get congressional approval for a new nuclear deal?

Even more concise, Russia’s steadfastness on the resumption of the enactment of the 2015 nuclear deal during these talks, means that the United States would have to resume the implementation of its commitments, including lifting all the sanctions imposed in the context of the JCPOA.

 Hence, US credibility in these talks is a contradictory challenge.

As Democrats keep misunderstanding the clauses of a maximum pressure campaign and laying fault evenly at the feet of former President Trump, new penalties recently imposed by the US treasury department on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp and affiliated companies for supplying lethal drones to insurgent groups in Lebanon, Yemen, and Ethiopia further strengthened Trump’s unilateral sanctions on Iran.  This tactic taken by Democrats proves that Trump’s maximum pressure campaign has not only sharpened Democrat’s hypocritical disagreements. Furthermore, international sanctions against Iran as the sole solution to create an economic incentive for Iran to come to the bargaining table has also yielded a stream of betrayal that mystifies the double standards of democrats in their credible path of diplomacy.   

  More obvious is the fact that the Biden presidency is now faced with its most threatening foreign policy challenge, as Iran’s proliferation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) threatens international peace and security, and continues to attack the US forces and international shipping in the Middle East.  

Evidently, the resumptions of talks of a global nuclear power play are changing form and altering courses, in a new post-COVID-19 environment in the Middle East.  Failure to reinstate the deal marks another major foreign policy blunder for the Biden administration when the administration is reeling from a botched military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and there is no observable solidity in US policy narratives or any international insights in their methodology of these problems.  

While proponents contend that the JCPOA is achieving its goal of curtailing   Iran’s nuclear program, the Iran nuclear deal has become a book with words made of crystal, and of blood stirred inside a dark eclipse while death lies silent in the shadows.   Beneath stars that offer no light and a fearful dust, a  silver flame mirages in the obscuring path, and thickets tremble with droplets of dew, yet, the  Iran nuclear deal is a vision that offers no bloom.  

If history atomizes us and shapes our understanding of the present, then it is clear that Biden’s administration approach to the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) is a failure.  The talks in Vienna will prove that America has again misplayed its hand at the nuclear bargaining table and generated an even more strident and more pugnacious regime in Iran.


(Rebecca Theodore is an international journalist and syndicated columnist based in New York City.  She writes on the platform of national security, politics,  human rights, and climate change.