June 26, 2022

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‘Weak deal’ in Vienna talks a code name for intensifying sanctions

However, that balanced solution and a weak agreement seem to be just a code name for the retaining of sanctions on Iran.

The nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the JCPOA, was thrown into disarray in May 2018 when then US president Donald Trump withdrew his country from the international accord and reinstated sanctions lifted under the JCPOA.

Those sanctions were followed by other restrictions targeting Iran’s economy, which Trump put in place as part of his so-called maximum pressure campaign and an “unprecedented” sanctions regime against the Islamic Republic.

Trump’s successor Joe Biden, who took office in January 2021, announced plans to return the US to the JCPOA, with American officials saying that the aim was to clinch a stronger and longer agreement with Iran.

And in April 2021, Iran and the remaining signatories to the JCPOA, namely the UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany, known as the 4+1 group, began negotiations in Vienna to revive the 2015 accord.

After six rounds of negotiations, the parties to the talks agreed on a draft agreement that was weaker than the original 2015 deal.

Talks resumed in November 2021 after the 13th and current government led by President Ebrahim Raisi took office in Iran.

Raisi’s government focused on the removal of all anti-Iran sanctions in a verifiable manner.

Now, the sanctions removal talks have come to their end for some while, with the parties waiting for a political decision by the US.

Is any deal better than no deal?

Washington, however, has so far failed to make a decision. And, some individuals and groups, like the international crisis group, have advised Iran to accept an agreement weaker than the JCPOA, arguing that such an agreement will bring positive consequences for Iran.

Several points need to be mentioned regarding that argument.

The eleventh Iranian government led by Hassan Rouhani, which took office in August 2013, continued talks with the P5+1 group making up of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program and remove sanctions against the country. However, there is a big difference between the negotiation process taken by the eleventh government and that of the current government. The difference is that the eleventh government pursued the policy of “any deal is better than no deal.” That policy, which was repeatedly announced by the then foreign minister, was in contrast with what the US pursued. American diplomats were of the belief that no deal is better than a bad deal. 

The diplomatic approach taken by the eleventh government proved to be damaging, after the JCPOA was clinched in July 2015 and its failures became clear afterwards.

After the JCPOA was clinched, the Western sides began to breach their obligations; an issue that was even referred to by the officials of the eleventh government. As an instance, Valiyollah Seif, the then head of the Iranian Central Bank, during his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in the US in April 2016, said “almost nothing” has happened after the JCPOA.

The US withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 under former president Trump and imposed rounds of sanctions against Iran under his so-called maximum pressure campaign. The US violations of the JCPOA had begun under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama. And this raised the question as to why Iran failed to reclaim its rights even before Trump launched his maximum pressure campaign.

The answer is rooted in the text of the JCPOA. Based on articles 36 and 37 of the accord, if any party believes that other parties do not meet their commitments, it could refer the issue to the Joint Commission for resolution. In case that the Joint Commission cannot resolve the issue, the UN Security Council (UNSC) should within 60 days prepare a resolution on retaining the sanctions lifting and all members should vote for the resolution.

Should any member of the Security Council veto that resolution, previous UNSC resolutions against Iran will be restored, and US and EU sanctions will snap back.  

It was because of the so-called snapback mechanism that Iran never followed up the US violations of the JCPOA, including those at the time of Obama as well as Trump’s withdrawal from the accord. The fact that Iran had accepted the snapback mechanism, which was against its national interests and prevented the country from pursuing its rights, had originated from the diplomacy that any deal was better than no deal.

Now that the clash between Iran and the US is not limited to the nuclear issue and the Biden administration is continuing with the maximum pressure campaign, the acceptance of an agreement weaker than the JCPOA and ignoring the fact that Iran should enjoy economic benefits from a potential revival deal would pave the way for intensifying sanctions in future and would create a shock bigger than the one caused by Trump’s pullout from the JCPOA.

Currently, sanctions are far from their optimal point. Given that the US is seeking to upgrade the sanctions, which are the only strategic tool to put pressure on Iran, the acceptance of a weak agreement that fails to provide Iran with the economic benefits resulted from the sanctions removal would practically pave the way for more US pressure, and this is a strategic mistake.

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Original News : https://en.irna.ir/news/84760517/Weak-deal-in-Vienna-talks-a-code-name-for-intensifying-sanctions

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