After four months of dragging feet with nuclear negotiations, Tehran finally agreed to resume nuclear talks in Vienna on November 29. While some called the decision a breakthrough, a closer look at the timing, Tehran’s past performance, and current rhetoric unearth another playbook.
The new date set to resume negotiations is a few days after a scheduled session by the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Tehran once again attempts to manipulate the world community and dodge an eventual BoG resolution that aims to punish Tehran because of its failure to comply with the IAEA safeguard regime and its provocative nuclear advancements.
In September, Tehran struck a deal with the IAEA chief, Rafael Grossi, on the eve of the scheduled meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors and agreed to facilitate the UN watchdog’s monitoring inside Iranian nuclear sites. As the BoG meeting withheld a condemning resolution on Tehran, the regime evaded possible serious repercussions by the world community. Yet, after the IAEA meeting and the United Nations General Assembly session, Tehran prevented the IAEA personnel from performing routine maintenance on the monitoring equipment and the Karaj Nuclear Site was to remain off-limits.
Mahmoud Nabaviyan, a member of the Special Commission for Investigations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and a member of the board of the Article-90 Commission of the regime’s parliament, recently announced that Arak Reactor has produced 9 kg of plutonium annually, which is sufficient for a bomb.”
On Friday, November 5, Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman of regime’s Atomic Energy Organization said: “So far we have produced 25 kilograms of 60 percent uranium, which, except for countries with nuclear weapons, no other country is able to produce.”
In other words, Tehran succeeded through nuclear blackmail and deception to avoid being held accountable for its malign activities.
Tehran stalled nuclear talks in June, when Ebrahim Raisi, became the regime’s new president. Raisi and his Foreign Minister, Hossain Amir-Abodollahian, persisted on the fact that they are not interested in “negotiating for negotiations.” But their approach rather shows that Tehran indeed negotiates to kill time and secretly expand its nuclear capabilities.
To make the situation more complicated, Tehran proclaimed three terms for resuming the nuclear talks that actually would allow it to continue its nuclear activities and achieve a nuclear weapon.
“The U.S. should show that it has the capability and will to provide guarantees that it will not abandon the deal again if the talks to revive the deal succeed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a virtual news conference on Monday.
Khatibzadeh added that the U.S. must “recognize its fault in ditching the pact” and must “lift all sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.”
Tehran knows that these demands are unrealistic. In this regard, the state-run Arman-e Meli on Monday wrote: “Are the terms meant to gain concessions or to say that Iran would not enter the talks from a position of weakness? Or perhaps the officials demanded these terms as they knew they would not be fully achieved. So, we could argue that we were ready to negotiate but the effort failed because they [the P5+1] declined our demands?”
“If we expect the Americans to recognize their fault and pay for it, this is not something they would accept,” Arman-e Meli added. The paper also underlined that the regime “should, by all means, participate in the negotiations on November 29 and do not postpone it”, as it could lead to the formation of an “international front” against Tehran.
Furthermore, French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told his Iranian counterpart on Tuesday that the JCPOA talks should “continue where they left off in June.” Le Drian’s comments suggest mounting concerns over Tehran’s recent demands.
Thus, it is unlikely that even European signatories of the JCPOA, which have been making every possible effort to keep the highly flawed JCPOA alive, succumb to the regime’s demands. It should be noted that nuclear talks stalled due to the regime’s lack of cooperation and attempts to blackmail the international community. Tehran has continued to renege on its obligations, enriched uranium beyond limits set by the JCPOA, and continued its terrorist activities through its proxy groups in the region.
The regime’s demand for the lifting of sanctions is another baseless demand. While the Obama administration joined the JCPOA through an executive decision, most of the sanctions imposed on Tehran were approved and passed by the U.S. Congress. Consequently, it is beyond the power of any U.S. administration to lift them. Besides, many of these sanctions are not even related to the regime’s nuclear program.
It is worth noting that the regime’s demand that neither the current U.S. administration nor any future administration would withdraw from the deal, requires the nuclear deal to be passed as a treaty, requiring 60 votes in the Senate.
“Our demand that the U.S. that future administrations will not withdraw from the JCPOA, even if Congress does ratify this, the U.S. lawmakers could introduce a resolution and repeal the previous law if it’s in their interest,” Arman-e Meli wrote in this regard.
The Iranian regime is aware of how unrealistic its demands are. Yet, it has presented them for two reasons. First, Iran is counting on a resurgence of the appeasement policy. The regime knows that the international community’s patience is thinning out, and Tehran could suffer severe consequences in the long run. So, it intends to attain the maximum possible concessions from the West. Besides, Tehran intends to buy more time and continue its nuclear program to have the upper hand in the negotiations. The remarks made by the regime’s deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani in 2020, shed light on the regime’s strategy to buy more time.
“When we started negotiating in 2003, Iran had no leverage; thus, we accepted the suspension of uranium enrichment. Some people didn’t believe that the nuclear program is a power component, arguing that we are not seeking nuclear weapons,” said Iran’s current top negotiator in an interview in 2020. “But sensitive and complex technologies have dual purposes. Only governments invest in such technology because it has a military dimension. We wanted the centrifuges to keep spinning so that the wheels of our economies can spin as well,” he added.
The state-run Aftab-e Yazd daily acknowledged on November 2 that “if Iran returns to the JCPOA, the U.S. and other signatories would not be limited to the JCPOA and its terms. If Tehran leaves the JCPOA, it has to start negotiations with the countries that want to accelerate the talks and extend the nuclear negotiations to other issues.”
The second reason for the regime’s unrealistic demands is largely due to the current social crises in Iran. The Iranian regime faces a restive society. Time is not the mullahs’ ally. Iran’s economy is in shambles due to the regime’s corruption and wasting resources on terrorism and its nuclear program. Sanctions have crippled the regime’s warmongering machine and have also increased Iran’s social dilemma. Since Iran’s economy is oil-dependent, the regime is unable to cover its expenses amid sanctions on its oil industry.
Tehran desperately needs sanctions relief to save its collapsing economy, prevent popular uprisings, and fund its terrorist proxy groups that have become unpopular in the region. Raisi’s administration recently demanded the release of $10 billion in frozen Iranian assets as another supposed gesture of goodwill from the U.S on August 22.
The regime knows that showing any sign of weakness in dealing with the outside world could result in the mullahs’ losing their fragile hold on the situation in Iran. Besides, any weakness from the current “young and Hezbollahi” government, as described by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, could further demoralize the regime forces.
It’s safe to conclude that the Iranian regime is in a deadlock. Tehran can neither accept the terms offered by western powers in exchange for sanctions relief nor continue playing for time due to the country’s current social and economic crises. Iran’s illogical actions are the characteristics of a regime drowning in crises that it has created. The world community should know that the regime is at its weakest point. Tehran only responds to strength, and any concessions to the regime would only embolden it. Thus, the time has come for the international community to curb Iran’s nuclear program and terrorism once and for all.