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Iran nuclear deal: Are JCPOA negotiations being derailed?

Iran nuclear deal:  Are JCPOA negotiations being derailed?

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Why after a year and a half of indirect negotiations between the US and Iran, aimed at reviving the nuclear deal with Iran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has it ve reached an almost complete impasse? It is known that both sides have agreed on most issues, and both, with the support of the rest of the P5+1, are in principle interested in reaching an agreement .

Is it Israel which is not a member of the nuclear agreement that decides the matter as Prime Minister Yair Lapid insisted that restoring the 2015 agreement would be "a critical mistake?" Anyway, all is not lost as the talks are decided to resume in December.

The big question in the current JCPOA negotiation was which side would flinch first in the escalating diplomatic standoff. Will Iran make the opening move by submitting to the US demands to resume compliance with the JCPOA's provisions? Or will the Biden administration give in to Iran's insistence on the prior lifting of the additional economic sanctions imposed by Trump? Iran's seasoned chief diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif tried to end this quarrel by offering a compromise. He suggested both sides could take simultaneous steps to revert to compliance, with procedures coordinated by the European Union. This reasonable proposal prompted to carry on the negotiations. Iran insisted that it would never agree to any amendment of the JCPOA nor include any additional party to the six signatories – a reference to Israel and Saudi Arabia who have been demanding their say in the matter.

It is true that Biden administration diluted or reversed a number of executive orders issued by Trump. But these were mostly related to the domestic policy. On foreign policy issues its moves have been largely secondary and insubstantial, especially with regard to the Middle East. What worried the Iranians most is new secretary of state Antony Blinken's declaration that the US would consult its allies before making any move on the Iranian nuclear issue – a reference to European countries, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Blinken also wanted the previous agreement replaced by a new one with extra conditions that include Iran abandoning its missile programme and its paramilitary allies in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and the Gaza Strip. This was not a matter of ratcheting up demands as a standard negotiating tactic. It was due to a firm conviction of the United States that Iran would not place its neck again under the American jackboot. It no longer trusted commitments made by the US, and wanted to take serious and irreversible steps from Washington, supported by guarantees.

Tehran asked, "What if Trump or a Republican extremist takes over in four years' time and decides to reimpose economic sanctions, maybe even more viciously, and withdraw from the nuclear deal again?"

In response to the withdrawal by the then-US President Donald Trump in 2018 from the nuclear deal and reimposing severe sanctions, Iranian officials expanded the country's nuclear program and abandoned their commitments to it.

This convinced the US that it was necessary to take more amiable steps to bring Iran to the negotiating table. Thus, the European negotiators proposed a final 25-page draft agreement after nearly a year and a half of brain-rcking exercises. It included the relief of sanctions that were the mainstay demand of Iran.

Hence, a return to the 2015 agreement was thought imminent. But, we find that parties have now succumbed - at best - to further delays, postponing talks, and preventing Iran from increasing its crude oil sales. The parties who recently gathered in August in Vienna under IAEA avoided declaring its mission a failure, and adhered to a long-distance diplomacy, despite the fact that the crisis race has already exceeded all the announced deadlines. The negotiating teams have then returned to their countries, even without setting a new date for negotiations.The parties concerned hinted that it would be after the midterm elections in the United States and the legislative elections in Israel. At the end, the race intensified and seems to have taken a different turn and overturned the negotiating equation.

After indirect talks between the United States and Iran in Vienna in early August 2022, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell circulated what he described as a final draft agreement to restore the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In an Aug 8th tweet announcing the final draft, he said that "what can be negotiated has been negotiated" and that if Washington and Tehran respond positively, "we can sign this deal."

This was the result of a year and a half of talks. This progress leading toward reaching an accord with Iran could put the world into a realm of peace. But, Israel could not agree to it. It made Israel on edge and the Prime Minister Yair Lapid, speaking to the foreign press in Jerusalem on August 24, said that Western powers must stop talks to revive the nuclear deal with Iran because the deal would, according to him, "undermine" stability in the Middle East.

Chief of the Israel's national intelligence agency Mossad, David Barnea, described the emerging Iranian nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers as "a strategic disaster" for Israel, and that "Israel has already begun preparations for a military strike against Iran if such action is deemed necessary." Israel's 'Times of Israel' newspaper quoted Barnea saying that the deal is "very bad for Israel" and that the US "is rushing into an Accord that is ultimately based on lies," in reference to "Iran's ongoing claim that its nuclear activities are peaceful in nature."

He added that the agreement seemed inevitable, "in light of the needs of the US and Iran. Washington is seeking to prevent Tehran from acquiring the capability to build a nuclear bomb, while the Islamic Republic is seeking relief from crippling financial and economic sanctions."

Barnea believed that the agreement "gives Iran license to amass the required nuclear material for a bomb in a few years." He also believed that it would provide Tehran billions of dollars of its currently frozen money, and this could increase the danger that Iran posed across the region through its proxies. He also stressed that the deal "will not obligate Israel" and that Israel would act in the manner it sees fit to neutralise the threat against it, noting that "Israel has already begun preparations for a military strike against Iran if such action is deemed necessary. "

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said at the plenary session of the United Nations that the international community should use "military force" if Iran develops nuclear weapons. For months, Israel has been leading an intense diplomatic campaign in an effort to persuade the United States and major European powers, such as Britain, France and Germany, not to revive the 2015 JCPOA.

In the last ten days, several officials have ruled out reviving the agreement before mid-November at the earliest, and Lapid has sought to use this deadline to push Western countries to adopt a more hardline approach to negotiations with the Iranian Republic.

In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Lapid said, "The only way to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is to put a credible military threat on the table." Only then, he said, would it be possible to negotiate with the Iranians a "stronger and longer-term agreement."

Lapid stressed that "Iran must be clearly informed that the global response will not be with words, but with military force if it develops its nuclear program." He stressed that Israel would be ready to intervene if it felt a threat to it.

"We will do whatever is necessary," Lapid said, adding, "Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon."

Observers fear that a " hate orchestra " is going on between Israel and Iran. Raisi commented during an interview with Al-Jazeera English, "It is now up to Washington to take the final decision regarding reaching a nuclear agreement, and lifting sanctions on Tehran, and it must be accompanied by achieving guarantees."

He called for the need to "resolve the issue of safeguards" to move forward in the nuclear negotiations, adding that the West should ask Israel "which has weapons of mass destruction" to stop nuclear activities before they ask Iran to do so.

The Iranian president affirmed his country's determination to "defend its rights and of the people." He noted that Israeli political leaders are well aware that Washington is not interested in carrying out the main request that they have made in recent years, to the US which is a major and frightening military threat to Tehran.

And that is why the Israelis express varying opinions and options about what Israel should do if the agreement is signed between the international powers and Iran.

Tamir Hayman, the former head of the Intelligence Division in the Israeli army, wrote in an article in the newspaper "Israel Today," saying: "If an agreement is reached, Israel must prepare for a scenario in which Iran's enrichment program at full capacity moves forward by 2030."

This means that Israel must prioritize its operational capabilities so that it has the ability to stop Iran's nuclear program without causing a confrontation on its northern border, and most importantly, it must boost international support for a possible strike, primarily by courting the United States. Iran may use the deal to strengthen its regional presence, but Israel has proven that it is a worthy opponent in the face of such a threat, in the grand scheme of things.

The deal,somehow, would be made inferior to the 2015 agreement, and would not be a disaster for Israel." For his part, wrote an analyst in the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, Ron Ben-Ishai: "Israel is trying to influence the Americans in order to sabotage the negotiations, or at least to make last-minute changes in the deal. In Israel, some argue that Biden, like Ali Khamenei is stubborn, so he may extract a better deal from the Iranians, or decide to suspend negotiations until Tehran cancels some of its problematic demands.

He added, "The Pentagon is also paying close attention to Israeli arguments when Defence Minister Benny Gantz raised them in talks with his American counterpart, but this is unlikely to affect Washington."

"This is why Israel and the United States must participate in formulating a new strategy against Iran that would renew commitments to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons," Ben-Ishai added.

He said: "This strategy must contain at least four basic elements, first: strict intelligence control to prevent Iran from secretly developing a nuclear explosive device and turning it into a warhead or bomb, while making sure that Iran does not enrich uranium to a level above 60%, and second : the steps, methods, and countermeasures that could be implemented if Iran resumes its nuclear weapons development program or enriches uranium other than as permitted by the agreement; third: An Israeli-American agreement that sets the conditions under which Iran will be considered to have violated the revived deal.

The fourth element, according to Ben-Ishai, is "understanding about the principles of action that Israel and the United States will take together or separately if Iran does indeed obtain a nuclear bomb. Brooding over all these details make the observers fear that the resumption of the nuclear deal is still only a far-fetched idea.

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TAGS:IranIran nuclear dealJCPOAUS AdministrationBlinkenTrump's withdrawal from dealIsrael position
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