WHERE the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 is concerned, a great deal of fluidity exists regarding its fate. One day, the world is told that it is ‘near death’. Yet soon after, we learn that negotiations would resume and a new deal could be in sight. This reflects the high level of uncertainty amongst the stakeholders, as well as the desire to revive the deal and prevent further confrontation between Iran and the West. In the latest developments, the EU’s foreign policy chief has reignited hope that the deal may be salvageable. Josep Borrell, who was speaking after his emissary returned from Iran, said that nuclear talks had “reopened” and that a “final agreement” could possibly be reached. The Qatari emir was also recently in Tehran and met the top Iranian leadership, apparently to convince the Islamic Republic to resume the nuclear talks, which have stalled since March. These developments are quite positive considering that only a few days ago, serious doubts had been raised about the revival of the deal, which had been scuttled by US president Donald Trump’s administration in 2018.
At this point in time, it is difficult to predict the fate of the negotiations the EU official has alluded to. Engagement between the stakeholders is, of course, welcome; yet, one major sticking point remains: the American designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a ‘foreign terrorist organisation’. The Iranians are adamant that the elite military grouping be removed from the US terrorism list, though American officials, both on and off the record, remain non-committal. Indeed, the success or otherwise of the nuclear negotiations may come down to this single point. The Pasdaran were placed on the terrorism list by the Trump administration, and Joe Biden and his team should consider removing them from there as a confidence-building measure. No doubt, the American president will face tremendous domestic pressure from a huge section of the political class — including from lawmakers within his own party — that is wary of upsetting Israel. Yet if the nuclear talks are to succeed, all sides will have to take bold decisions. Placing the Pasdaran on the list was a questionable move, and has not stopped Iran from pursuing its regional aims. If the US and its European allies are serious about the JCPOA’s revival, they need to consider Iranian demands, or else risk sinking the deal for the foreseeable future.
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2022