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Iran’s economic crisis and the impact on its strategy

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Let us analyze Iran’s current demographics, which – as happens everywhere – is at the basis of the labor force complexion and of the public investment volume, as well as productivity and private spending.

During the first years of Islamic revolution, soon after the advent of the regime, there was a 2.5 million increase in births. In the 2000s, the annual increase of newborns was only one million approximately, while currently there is a phase of further reduction in births.

There is also migration – another decisive factor in demographics – which, as already noted, is always at the basis of every country’s economic structure.

According to the 2016 population survey, the latest effective one carried out by the ayatollah regime, as many as 1.8 million Iranians -i.e. 2.2% of the current 82.407 million people – are of foreign origin.

Hence the presence of a wide share of young or very young people.

As can be easily inferred, this leads to a high rate of unemployment and youth unemployment, in particular.

As often happened in the past, there is also the regimes’ tendency to push the excess of working age population out of the country, also by means of war.

Considering the official data of September-October 2018, in the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran the average unemployment rate is 12.2%.

According to the latest data, however, women’s unemployment rate is already equal to 19.8%, while the unofficial statistics of real unemployment among young people alone was 28.40% in the first quarter of 2018, with regional peaks of 35% and even 38% in some peripheral areas.

Another secondary, but inevitable effect of youth unemployment is the brain drain, as a result of which every year 150,000-180,000 graduates leave Iran.

A hidden tax that deprives Iran of 50 billion tax revenue, in addition to the loss of public (and family) costs for higher education.

Nevertheless, after 2015 – the year of the JCPOA with P5 + 1, i.e.  China, France, the Russian Federation, Great Britain and the United States, as well as Germany’s participation – there was a significant economic growth that, however, did not facilitate Iran’s access to Iranian capital and assets which had been frozen due to sanctions.

Iran’s total frozen assets are still between 100 and 124 billion US dollars, with approximately 50 billion dollars which have recently been refrozen in the United States alone.

Hence the sanction phase has been characterized by a real collapse of the Iranian economy.

From a GDP growing by a yearly 6% in 2010, in 2015 – exactly the year in which the JCPOA was signed – Iran certified a mere 1.5% GDP increase.

In 2016, as a result of the lifting of some sanctions against it, the GDP grew by 12.5% and by over 4% in 2017.

Hence a record growth in 2016 – due to the JCPOA -but later considerable growth rates were still recorded, certainly higher than the miserable growth rates of the European GDP in those same years.

Before the US unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, international banks had also predicted a 4.8% increase of Iranian GDP in 2018.

The current rate is instead 1.8%.

Sanctions, especially those regarding currency, always reach the target.

Currently, however, the US unilateral sanctions do not excessively affect Iran’s military system, which is mainly based on domestic technologies and patents and does not fear to be significantly damaged by the embargo and sanctions against it.

Nevertheless, since the announcement of the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal last July, the value of the Iranian currency has halved. So far the riyal has even lost 80% of its value as against the dollar.

Moreover, due to some natural disasters, Iran is currently forced to import much food from abroad, just now that its currency is worth ever less.

Moreover, as always happens, the great devaluation has led to high inflation: currently the Iranian inflation rate is realistically about 24%, while the Iranian government reports a 10.2% rate.

Iran has still approximately 90 billion US dollars of reserves, with the extraction of 3.79 million barrels / day (data of June 2018), but production will certainly decrease, considering the new partial sanctions imposed by the USA.

To the delight of Saudi Arabia, above all, whose crude oil production has a direct inverse correlation with Iran’s.

At strategic and military levels, if Iran wants to organize a war action, its first step will be the Strait of Hormuz.

Over 30% of the maritime oil traffic transits through this waterway (i.e. 18.5 million barrels / day),considering that it is the most used route by all the Arab exporting countries.

Nevertheless, the Strait of Hormuz which, at its narrowest, has a width of 33 miles, is also the waterway used for most Iranian oil exports. This significantly limits the possibility of a generalized block of the Strait of Hormuz, not to mention the fact that the headquarters of the US Firth Fleet is at short distance from Manama, the capital of Bahrain.

Obviously the only relatively credible threat of blocking the Strait of Hormuz is enough to make the oil barrel price rise significantly – and therefore this is what really matters.

Hence there is a direct link between the pursuit of the Iranian  natural strategic goals and the increasingly difficult situation in Iran, subject to new and certainly not negligible unilateral US sanctions.

The more Iran wants, the more it will be punished on the markets and in the international geopolitical system.

Both the current US sanctions of last November and those imposed before the JCPOA, regard precious metals, the acquisition of US banknotes, or of technologies directly or indirectly linked to oil extraction or weapon manufacturing, as well as to the operations of oil transport and storage.

Obviously all payments to Iranian institutions or individuals cannot be made through US banks.

Hence, while a direct confrontation between Iran and the United States is currently unlikely, tension between the two countries is still conceivable – an escalation that also implies, at certain stages, war or semi-war operations.

A further variable of this scenario is Iran’s use of indirect or “hybrid war” strategies in the areas near Hormuz, or in any Middle East region where Shiites or the Iranian Armed Forces – above all, the Pasdaran – can start a war of attrition with the typical methods of hybrid war, guerrilla warfare, proxy war or strategic friction.

In particular, the ships of the Arab countries which are Iran’s “enemies” will be attacked by Iran in various ways, even without the possibility of identifying the attackers.

It is a highly likely scenario, but only if the Shiite republic feels to be encircled or under attack by Israel, the USA or the  Middle East Sunni powers.

In fact, the Yemeni Houthi rebels have already attacked  Saudi Aramco ships, during their crossing of Bab el-Mandeb Strait. If Saudi Arabia responded in the same way, this would give rise to a “small war” in the Strait, which is precisely what Iran wants, without ever directly creating the opportunity.

Approximately 5 million barrels / day transit through Bab el-Mandeb Strait to the Mediterranean, and the other way round.

Hitting these routes, without direct actions by the Guardians of the Revolution or by the less trusted Artesh, could be a possible option  for Iran.

In so doing, however, Iran would antagonize Europe which, indeed, count for nothing strategically and militarily – but this could set a precedent for a US military action, with or without its regional allies.

Hence if we put in place a series of international financial, political and military pressures, we can think that – in the future – the USA can sit back to the negotiating table with Iran.

Currently, it seems that the United States is leaving the Iranian affair to Saudi Arabia and Israel – but probably it will not be enough.

Hence, according to the basic ideas of Iran’s current leadership  in power, the negative reaction to the growth of Iran’s power does not depend on its threatening nature, but on the fear for the growth of a new Middle East actor, namely Iran.

Therefore, again according to the Iranian ruling class, only by pursuing the goals of Iran’s great autonomy and of an evident and significant power projection, will it be possible – in the future – to have an acceptable level of security for Iran and a good level of geoeconomic stability.

The Iranian leaders’ strategic-military theory, however, places  both conventional and unconventional threats on an equal footing.

Nevertheless, according to Iran’s leadership, Iran’s expansion is related to the mere security and stability of the country and has exactly no expansionist aims.

This is what Iran’s leaders maintain. But how can peaceful expansion of commercial networks and routes be pursued if currently Iran has to move between potential or overt enemies?

Hence, as the Iranian leaders maintain, if their economy is further put in crisis, the Iranian government will start bilateral or trilateral negotiations with its neighbouring countries, thus creating  transport, financial and commercial networks, besides the stable exchange of labor force, national currencies, goods and services.

The Iranian leaders think that, in this vast region, their country could arrange its new economic development, outside the framework of relations with the USA and, possibly, with the weak EU.

In other and even much clearer words: railways, roads, trade and IT networks between Iran and the Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.

This is one of the implications of the decisive role played by Iran in the Syrian war.

In terms of national defense, the Iranian Shiite leaders believe that the most important course of action in this sector is the establishment of excellent relations with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, while a Saudi-Turkish axis is also emerging in the Iranian decision-makers’ minds.

A new Turkish-Iranian axis organized by the Russian Federation, leading to peace between Iran and Turkey – peace that regards  Syria which, however, in the Turkish leaders’ view, could lead to a financial and oil alliance between the two countries, an alliance to which Russia would not be alien.

Furthermore, according to the Iranian leaders, the fight against Daesh-Isis was an operation to make Iran’s borders safe, especially with the Pasdaran’s interventions in Syria and Iraq.

The other strategic project pursued by the Iranian leaders is a stable and strong alliance with the Russian Federation.

From Iran’s viewpoint, all its recent military operations – even using the new scenario created by the “Arab springs” – have exploited the chaos spread by ISIS, for example in Iraq, with a view to creating a stable corridor between the Iranian territory and some Iraqi areas, exactly as it is happening in Syria in the new green line between Iran and Hezbollah’s Lebanon.

A geopolitics of “corridors”, which are at first military and then economic corridors.

Assad is therefore crucial for all Iranian projects, since he can link Iran with the Mediterranean.

With possible threats, especially asymmetric ones, by Iran, which could be launched from the Lebanese coast not only against the “traditional” opponents (Israel and the USA, of course), but also against the whole transit of goods to the Southern coasts of the EU which, obviously, has not yet realized it.

There will be Iranian naval bases on the Lebanese coast in the future.

Hence, within all this conceptual mechanism, we can see Iran’s  current and future choices in the field of military and foreign policy:

1) increase of commercial ties with the countries bordering on the Shiite republic, through agreements including  monetary, export, labour and financial support arrangements to leave the dollar area, as China and Russia do;

2) use of these relations for creating an “external circle” useful for Iran’s defense, with obvious needs to use remote positions for missiles and for anti-aircraft artillery, with the future establishment of a sort of “Shiite NATO”, which could be linked to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO);

3) creation of a balance between the loss of Iranian positions in the US market and the opening up of new opportunities in the European and Middle East markets, with the Iranian economic expansion to Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan;

4) future expansion of proxy wars in Yemen and, possibly, also in Saudi Arabia, possibly with an Iranian “seduction” operation vis-à-vis Manama and other Gulf Emirates, obviously in addition to   further strengthening the link between Iran and Qatar;

5) probable direct threat to Israel, through Hezbollah, so as to verify the Israeli relations with European countries and the USA. The basic question of Iranian leaders is always the same: will Europeans, or even Americans, be willing to “die for Jerusalem”?

6) Planned mounting of tension in Bab el-Mandeb Strait, but with short demonstrative actions, of which Iran itself will be the first to observe their impact on the oil market and on the military structure of the Middle East;

7) Iran’s probable future creation of a sort of “Shiite common market”, but also open to other Sunni countries, which – however – will go along Khomeini’s traditional policy line: to expand the “revolutionary” Iran in the Central Asian axis, by unifying many countries having Shia minorities, such as Uzbekistan, the Hazarasin Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and the Shia minorities in Pakistan, to which Iran could ensure social peace. A possible future strategy for Iran will be strengthening Shiite minorities so as to later deal with their Sunni governments.

Hence, many signals will be sent to us by Iran in the coming months and years.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Turkey’s Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Cyprus, Turkey, Artsakh

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The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin of the Armenian Apostolic Church has recently hosted a conference on international religious freedom and peace with the blessings of His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

Tasoula Hadjitofi, the founding president of the Walk of Truth, was one of the invited guests. She spoke about genocide and her own experience in Cyprus, warning of Turkey’s religious freedom violations. Hadjitofi also called for joint legal actions against continued ethnic cleansing and destruction of Christian cultural heritage in Cyprus, Turkey, Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) and other places by the Turkish government and its regional allies including Azerbaijan.

During the two-day conference, access to places of worship in war and conflict zones, the protection of religious and ethnic minorities, and preservation of cultural heritage were among the topics addressed by many distinguished speakers.  The conference paid particular attention to the situation of historic Armenian monasteries, churches, monuments, and archeological sites in parts of Nagorno-Karabakh that have been under Azeri occupation since the 2020 violent war unleashed by Azerbaijan.

Hadjitofi presented about the situation of Cyprus, sharing her recent visit to the Cypriot city of Famagusta (Varoshia), making historic parallels between the de-Christianisation of Asia Minor, Cyprus and Nagorno-Karabakh by Turkey, and its allies such as Azerbaijan. See Hadjitofi’s full speech here.

Author of the book, The Icon Hunter, Hadjitofi spoke with passion about her recent visit to the ghost city of Famagusta, occupied by Turkey since 1974. Her visit coincided with the 47th anniversary of the occupation. She was accompanied by journalist Tim Neshintov of Spiegel and photographer Julien Busch as she made several attempts to visit her home and pray at her church of Timios Stavrou (Holy Cross).

Hadjitofi explained how her own human rights and religious freedoms, alongside the rights of tens of thousands of Cypriots, were violated when Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan illegally entered her country and prayed at the newly erected mosque in her own occupied town whereas she was kneeling down in the street to pray to her icon in front of her violated Christian church. In comparison, her church was looted, mistreated and vandalized by the occupying forces.  

Hadjitofi reminded the audience of the historic facts concerning Turks discriminating against Christian Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians. They also massacred these communities or expelled them from the Ottoman Empire and the modern Republic of Turkey, a process of widespread persecution which culminated in the 1913-23 Christian genocide. Hadjitofi then linked those genocidal actions with what Erdogan is doing today to the Kurds in Syria, and the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh by supporting Turkey’s wealthy friends such as the government of Azerbaijan.  She also noted that during her recent visit to her hometown of Famagusta, a delegation from Azerbaijan referred to Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus as “Turkish land” and a “part of Greater Turkey”. This is yet another sign of Turkish-Azeri historic revisionism, and their relentless efforts for the Turkification of non-Turkish geography.

Hadjitofi called for a series of legal actions against Turkey and its allies, reminding Armenians that although they signed the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC), they have not ratified it. She noted that it must be the priority of Armenians if they want to seek justice. Azerbaijan and Turkey, however, neither signed or ratified the Rome Statute.

During her speech Hadjitofi also emphasized the need for unity amongst all Christians and other faiths against any evil or criminal act of destroying places of worship or evidence of their historical existence anywhere in the world. 

In line with this call, the Republic of Armenia instituted proceedings against the Republic of Azerbaijan before the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, with regard to violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

In its application, Armenia stated that “[f]or decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination” and that, “[a]s a result of this State-sponsored policy of Armenian hatred, Armenians have been subjected to systemic discrimination, mass killings, torture and other abuse”.

Hadjitofi said that “Armenia’s lawsuit against the government of Azerbaijan is a positive move in the right direction and more legal actions should be taken against governments that systematically violate human rights and cultural heritage. I’m also in the process of meeting members of the Armenian diaspora in Athens, London, and Nicosia to discuss further joint legal actions. But the most urgent action that Armenia should take is the ratification of Rome Statute of the ICC,” she added.

Other speakers at the conference included representatives of the main Christian denominations, renowned scholars and experts from around the globe, all of whom discussed issues related to international religious freedom and the preservation of the world’s spiritual, cultural and historical heritage.

Baroness Cox, a Member of the UK House of Lords and a prominent human rights advocate, was among the participants. She has actively defended the rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia through her parliamentary, charity and advocacy work.

Meanwhile, the organizing committee of the conference adopted a joint communiqué, saying, in part:

” We re-affirm the principles of the right to freedom of religion or belief, as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international and regional human rights treaties. We claim this right, equally, for all people, of any faith or none, and regardless of nation, history or political circumstances – including for those Armenian prisoners of war still illegally held in captivity by Azerbaijan, for whose swift release and repatriation we appeal and pray, and for the people of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh whose rights to free and peaceful assembly and association necessarily implicate the sacred character of human life.”

On September 11, the delegates of the conference were received by the President of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, in his palace in Yerevan where they were thanked. The guests also visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial-Museum (Tsitsernakaberd), where Hadjitofi was interviewed on Armenian national TV. She said:

“I read about the Armenian Genocide and I am glad that more countries recognize it as such but I am disappointed that politicians do not condemn actions of Turkey and its allies in their anti Christian attitude towards Cyprus and Nagorno-Karabakh. I see an interconnection between the genocide and the adopted politics of Azerbaijan, when the ethnic cleansing takes place, when cultural heritage is destroyed, gradually the traces of the people once living there are eliminated and that is genocide”. 

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After 10 years of war in Syria, siege tactics still threaten civilians

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The future for Syria’s people is “increasingly bleak”, UN-appointed rights experts said on Tuesday, highlighting escalating conflict in several areas of the war-ravaged country, a return to siege tactics and popular demonstrations linked to the plummeting economy.

According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the country is not safe for refugees to return to, after a decade of war.

The panel’s findings come amid an uptick in violence in the northwest, northeast and south of the country, where the Commissioners highlighted the chilling return of besiegement against civilian populations by pro-Government forces.

“The parties to the conflict continue to perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity and infringing the basic human rights of Syrians,” said head of the Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro. “The war on Syrian civilians continues, and it is difficult for them to find security or safe haven.”

Scandal of Al Hol’s children

Professor Pinheiro also described as “scandalous” the fact that many thousands of non-Syrian children born to former IS fighters continue to be held in detention in dreadful conditions in Syria’s north-east.

“Most foreign children remain deprived of their liberty since their home countries refuse to repatriate them,” he told journalists, on the sidelines of the 48th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“We have the most ratified convention in the world, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is completely forgotten. And democratic States that are prepared to abide to this Convention they neglect the obligations of this Convention in what is happening in Al Hol and other camps and prison places.”

Some 40,000 children continue to be held in camps including Al Hol. Nearly half are Iraqi and 7,800 are from nearly 60 other countries who refuse to repatriate them, according to the Commission of Inquiry report, which covers the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021. 

Blockades and bombardment

The rights experts also condemned a siege by pro-Government forces on the town of Dar’a Al-Balad, the birthplace of the uprising in 2011, along with “siege-like tactics” in Quineitra and Rif Damascus governorates.

“Three years after the suffering that the Commission documented in eastern Ghouta, another tragedy has been unfolding before our eyes in Dar’a Al-Balad,” said Commissioner Hanny Megally, in reference to the siege of eastern Ghouta which lasted more than five years – and which the commissioners previously labelled “barbaric and medieval”.

In addition to the dangers posed by heavy artillery shelling, tens of thousands of civilians trapped inside Dar’a Al-Balad had insufficient access to food and health care, forcing many to flee, the Commissioners said.

Living in fear

In the Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn regions of Aleppo, the Commissioners described how people lived in fear of car bombs “that are frequently detonated in crowded civilian areas”, targeting markets and busy streets.

At least 243 women, men and children have been killed in seven such attacks over the 12-month reporting period, they said, adding that the real toll is likely to be considerably higher.

Indiscriminate shelling has also continued, including on 12 June when munitions struck multiple locations in Afrin city in northwest Syria, killing and injuring many and destroying parts of al-Shifa hospital.

Insecurity in areas under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria has also deteriorated, according to the Commission of Inquiry, with increased attacks by extremist “remnants” and conflict with Turkish forces.

Division remains

The Commissioners noted that although President Assad controls about 70 per cent of the territory and 40 per cent of the pre-war population, there seems to be “no moves to unite the country or seek reconciliation. On the contrary.”

Despite a welcome drop in the level of violence compared with previous years, the Commission of Inquiry highlighted the dangers that continue to be faced by non-combatants

The senior rights experts also highlighted mounting discontent and protests amongst the population, impacted by fuel shortages and food insecurity, which has increased by 50 per cent in a year, to 12.4 million, citing UNFPA data.

“The hardships that Syrians are facing, particularly in the areas where the Government is back in control, are beginning to show in terms of protests by Syrians who have been loyal to the State,” said Mr. Megally. They are now saying, ‘Ten years of conflict, our lives are getting worse rather than getting better, when do we see an end to this?’”

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IAEA Director General reaches agreement in Tehran, as Biden’s clock is ticking

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IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi at a press conference. Photo: IAEA/Dean Calmaa

A meeting to resolve interim monitoring issues was held in Tehran on 12 September between the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, and the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi. Grossi was on a visit to Tehran to fix roadblocks on the stalled monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program, which is ever more challenging in a context where there is no diplomatic agreement to revive or supersede the JCPOA. Grossi said in a press conference on 12 September that the IAEA had “a major communication breakdown” with Iran. But what exactly does that mean?


The IAEA monitoring equipment had gone three months without being serviced and Grossi said he needed “immediate rectification” of the issues. He was able to get the Iranian side to come to an agreement. The news from Sunday was that the IAEA’s inspectors are now permitted to service the identified equipment and replace their storage media which will be kept under the joint IAEA and AEOI seals in Iran. The way and the timing are now agreed by the two sides. The IAEA Director General had to push on the terms of the agreement reached in February 2020.

Grossi underlined on Sunday that the new agreement can’t be a permanent solution. Data from the nuclear facilities is just being stored according to what commentators call “the continuity of knowledge” principle, to avoid gaps over extended time periods but the data is not available to inspectors.

When it’s all said and done, basically, it all comes down to the diplomatic level. The American withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear agreement in 2018 keeps undermining the Iran nuclear inspections on the technical level. All the inspection activities have been stalled as a result of the broken deal. The IAEA’s strategy in the interim is that at least the information would be stored and not permanently lost.

Everyone is waiting for the JCPOA to be restored or superseded. As Vali Nasr argued in the New York Times back in April this year, the clock is ticking for Biden on Iran. Iran diplomacy doesn’t seem to be on Biden’s agenda at all at the moment. That makes the nuclear inspectors’ job practically impossible.  Journalists pointed out on Sunday that the Director General’s visit found one broken and one damaged camera in one of the facilities. Grossi assured it has been agreed with Iran that the cameras will be replaced within a few days. The IAEA report notes that it was not Iran but Israel that broke the IAEA cameras in a June drone attack carried out by Israel. Presumably, Israel aimed to show Iran is not complying by committing the violations themselves.

Grossi’s visit was a part of the overall IAEA strategy which goes along the lines of allowing time for diplomacy, without losing the data in the meantime. He added that he thinks he managed to rectify the most urgent problem, which is the imminent loss of data.

The Reuters’s title of the meeting is that the agreement reached on Sunday gives “hope” to a renewed Iran deal with the US, after Iran elected a hardliner president, Ebrahim Raisi, in August this year, but that’s a misleading title. This is not the bit that we were unsure about. The question was never on the Iranian side. No one really expected that the new Iranian president would not engage with the IAEA at all. Earlier in November 2019, an IAEA inspector was not allowed on a nuclear cite and had her accreditation canceled. In November 2020, Iranian lawmakers passed a law that mandated the halt of the IAEA inspections and not to allow inspectors on the nuclear sites, as well as the resuming of uranium enrichment, unless the US sanctions are lifted. In January 2021, there were threats by Iranian lawmakers that IAEA inspectors would be expelled. Yet, the new Iranian President still plays ball with the IAEA.

It is naïve to think that Iran should be expected to act as if there was still a deal but then again, US foreign policy is full of naïve episodes. “The current U.S. administration is no different from the previous one because it demands in different words what Trump demanded from Iran in the nuclear area,” Khamenei was quoted to have said in his first meeting with President Raisi’s cabinet.

“We don’t need a deal – you will just act as if there was still a deal and I will act as if I’m not bound by a deal” seems to be the US government’s line put bluntly. But the ball is actually in Biden’s court. The IAEA Director General is simply buying time, a few months at a time, but ultimately the United States will have to start moving. In a diplomatic tone, Grossi referred on Sunday to many commentators and journalists who are urging that it is time.

I just don’t see any signs on Biden’s side to move in the right direction. The current nuclear talks we have that started in June in Vienna are not even direct diplomatic talks and were put on hold until the outcome of Iran’s presidential elections were clear. US hesitance is making Grossi’s job impossible. The narrative pushed by so many in the US foreign policy space, namely that the big bad wolf Trump is still the one to blame, is slowly fading and reaching its expiry date, as Biden approaches the one-year mark of his presidency.

Let’s not forget that the US is the one that left and naturally is the one that has to restart the process, making the parties come back to the table. The US broke the deal. Biden can’t possibly be expecting that the other side will be the one extending its hand to beg for forgiveness. The US government is the one that ruined the multi-year, multilateral efforts of the complex dance that was required to get to something like the JCPOA – a deal that Republicans thought was never going to be possible because “you can’t negotiate with Iran”. You can, but you need skilled diplomats for that. Blinken is no Kerry. Judging from Blinken’s diplomacy moves with China and on other issues, I just don’t think that the Biden Administration has what it takes to get diplomacy back on track. If he follows the same line with Iran we won’t see another JCPOA in Biden’s term. Several weeks ago, Biden said that there are other options with Iran if diplomacy fails, in a White House meeting with Israel’s new prime minister Bennett. I don’t think that anyone in the foreign policy space buys that Biden would launch a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But I don’t think that team Biden can get to a diplomatic agreement either. Biden and Blinken are still stuck in the 2000, the time when others would approach the US no matter what, irrespective of whose fault it was. “You will do as I say” has never worked in the history of US foreign policy. That’s just not going to happen with Iran and the JCPOA. To expect otherwise is unreasonable. The whole “Trump did it” line is slowly and surely reaching its expiry date – as with anything else on the domestic and foreign policy plane. Biden needs to get his act together. The clock is ticking.

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