There is news on the world’s diplomatic stage as Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia re-engage with Iran to resurrect the highly criticized Obama-Biden era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran desperately wants the sanctions currently imposed by the U.S. and others lifted.
Much of Iran’s enthusiasm for getting sanctions removed results from internal problems that Liberty Nation’s managing editor, Mark Angelides, explained. He wrote:
“Iran is a country with severe internal problems. The ruling regime under President Hassan Rouhani is restrictive, tyrannical, and determined to cling to power no matter what. When the citizens of Iran march in the streets demanding more rights and an end to oppressive practices of government, displays of international strength bolster actual strength on the home front.”
Covering Vienna’s opening talks, Reuters pointed out that the U.S. did not attend the meeting chaired by the European Union. The E.U. chief coordinator, Enrique Mora, was quoted on Twitter saying, “‘Constructive Joint Commission meeting. There’s unity and ambition for a joint diplomatic process with two expert groups on nuclear implementation and sanctions lifting. I will intensify separate contacts here in Vienna with all relevant parties, including the U.S.,’ he added.” We don’t know if there was a “happy face” emoji at the end.
With real trouble at home, Iran comes to the negotiating table, not exactly in the “catbird seat,” unless we let them be, of course. The sanctions imposed on Iran during President Trump’s administration are crushing the Iran economy. As LN’s Jeff Charles explained, when former President Trump took the U.S. out of the flawed Iran Nuclear Deal, he also told Iran that he would be re-applying sanctions until Iran proved that it was not continuing with a nuclear program.
Charles continued, saying that the Trump administration told Iran after applying the first round of sanctions that the U.S. would implement a second round in November 2018. The threat of that action got Iran’s ire up. Iranian attorneys complained to the International Court of Justice that the U.S. was “engaging in ‘naked economic aggression’ that is ‘strangling’ the country’s [Iran] economy.”
In a CNBC report, the term “strangling” is put in an economic context. Iran’s Gross Domestic Product contracted almost 5% in 2020, with a steady downward trend since 2017. Iran was unable to export oil with “billions of dollars sitting in banks in Iraq, China, and South Korea…that Iran cannot get its hands on due to the sanctions,” said Eliott Abrams, former U.S. special representative in a CNBC analysis.
The economic pressure on Iran is significant, and that should encourage the Iranian negotiators. The time is certainly conducive to a favorable deal for the U.S. So, if America goes back to the negotiating table with Iran, at a minimum, the U.S. should insist that five outcomes be achieved:
- Iran stops all efforts to produce nuclear weapons and dismantle or destroy all infrastructure to make nuclear weapons.
- No notice inspections of all existing nuclear fabrication facilities.
- Iran ceases all funding and other support to militias in Iraq and support to all global terrorist groups.
- Iran ends long-range ballistic-missile program.
- No payments of billions of dollars in hopes of sweetening the pot for the Iranians.
The Associated Press, quoting Abbas Araghchi, laid out Iran’s going-in position for the talks. Araghchi said, “Lifting U.S. sanctions is the first and the most necessary action for reviving the deal. Iran is fully ready to reverse its activities and return to complete implementation of the deal immediately after it is verified sanctions are lifted.” The Iranians’ mendacity in any negotiations should leave the U.S. and the other countries very skeptical about the last sentence.
What is even more troubling is that, as Abrams explains it, there’s a “very significant problem.” Biden’s Iran policy is to revive the nuclear deal “before negotiating the broader agreement” including the Iranian missile program and propping up militias in Iraq causing havoc in the region. Additionally, Abrams pointed out a showstopper down-side to the Biden Iran policy when he explained:
“‘But once you’ve gone back to the JCPOA, you have lifted most of the significant economic sanctions,’ he said. ‘Therefore, you have eliminated most of your leverage to get Iran to agree to these additional things that it does not want … to agree to, and I don’t see why it would agree at that point.'”
If the U.S. must re-negotiate the JCPOA, it should enter the talks understanding that America is in an excellent negotiating position with significant economic leverage. There is no need for a faint heart approach this time. If the deal is not a good one, for heaven’s sake, walk away.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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