The United States and its allies are somewhat near to revive the abrogated 2015 Nuclear Deal with Iran. Both the parties are not ready to turn “black pages” completely from their relations, but both domestic and external factors are pushing both the US and Iran to return to Nuclear Deal. While it is obvious that both Iran and United States have their strategic objectives that are pushing them to set the baseline in new way.
The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) which is the outcome of negotiations reached among P5+1 Powers (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States and Germany) and Iran; it was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted on July 20, 2015. President Trump withdrew from the deal unilaterally on May 18, 2018, while Iran still remained a party to the treaty until 2019, then it also started to violate the terms of accord.
After President Biden came to White House he had strong intent to revive the Nuclear Deal. Currently both Iran and United States are closer to the revival of the JCPOA. But what lies behind this effort to revive this Deal?
The Ukraine War has acted as a catalyst for the revival of JCPOA (while the negotiations started in April 2021). Since the War in Ukraine has pushed the global order in new and tough direction, with world seeing a new era of alliance politics, increasing energy prices and supply chain disruptions, new dynamics are emerging. The most important concern for US and EU is to secure energy supply chains. Europe has put Russia under sanctions, which is its biggest energy exporter. That makes them also to return towards nuclear deal. Iran’s hydrocarbons could be crucial. Iran’s oil output can reach “3.8 million barrels per day if sanctions are lifted”. The intent of US and EU also could be to diversify world energy market.
United States is also vying for again to have a leadership role in the Middle East and biggest challenge that its Arab allies and Israel consider, is Iran. By way of engaging with Iran, gives leverage to United States in regional framework. Biden Administration while understands the concerns of its Arab and Israeli allies, but yet it wants regional order again to work on American parameters. It does not want to leave a void in Middle East. The US wants to have its sway in regional matters and by way of re-entering JCPOA America is bringing back itself to the region. The Biden Administration’s strategy is to lure its allies towards itself especially when Middle East is becoming again very important player in global energy politics. Hence peace and stability of the region is significant for the US.
At this time, when US and its European allies are embattled against Russia – invasion of Ukraine by Russia; on one hand both US and EU are actively supporting Ukraine, handling refugees, put sanctions on Russia which have somewhat backfired also, and supporting Ukrainian Military to sustain the war, while on the other hand United States’ tensions which are escalating with China on whole sorts of issues but not limited to Taiwan; peace and stability in the Middle East would be an enduring concern for United States. Probably United States will have “offensive engagement strategy” in Middle East to tackle Iranian activities what the US calls “malign activities”. Also re-entering JCPOA will allow United States to keep an eye on Iranian proxy forces and any efforts by Iran which the US considers destabilizing. In this way United States will try to pressurize and try to deter Iran. United States wants to use JCPOA as a deterrent tool.
Since he became President Mr. Biden is facing grave challenges like threat of instability in Europe due to Ukraine conflict, further escalating competition with China, inflation at home. Also in November there are midterm elections. The revival of Iran Nuclear Deal could be crucial for Democrats. But President Biden wants to have something achieved on foreign policy front.
Iran in part is also changing its foreign policy “not in substance but in dynamics”. Crippling sanctions have proved harmful for Iranian economy. Shifts in global and regional order are pushing Iran to have “it’s say” in more concrete way. Since the shifts in regional order brought about by normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and certain Arab States, Iran sees a “new front rivals” that could impinge on Iran’s regional influence. Reviving the Nuclear Deal would not just be “positive blow to its economy”, but would allow Iran to have “a new diplomatic posture”. Also changed International environment is pushing Iran to be re-added in global political economy.
Iran will change its “engagement pattern”, and what it is? Iran understands the “new alignment” in regional order particularly that is ascended because of very nature of Iranian policies, which Iran’s adversaries feel concerned about. Recent normalization of relations has pushed Arab states closer to “Israeli led tacit alliance” with backing from Saudi Arabia and the United States. This “new configuration” will potentially embolden Israel. That will allow Israel to have “disproportionate leverage” in regional matters. Iran will certainly not want to allow this tacit alliance to get an upper edge. It will try to have active engagement with its Arab rivals and will try to moderate bilateral concerns.
Iran is seeing towards long term. “The Sunset Clauses” in Nuclear Deal are a great concern in US and its allies. Eight years after adoption “Transition day triggers the UN to lift missile restrictions, Iran to seek ratification of its additional protocol, the EU to terminate all remaining nuclear sanctions, United States to remove certain entities from the sanctioned list, and the United States to seek legislative termination of certain sanctions”. After 10 years of JCPOA, brings termination of “Resolution 2231 and the Security Council closes Iran’s nuclear file”. These two points are most important for Iran. Revival of the Nuclear Deal is crucial for Tehran.
In longer term, issues of Iran’s proxies and their activities will be a major concern for US, Israel, and its Arab allies. While IRGC (Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps), and their designation as terrorist organization by US will be concern for Iran, but that does not concern Tehran much. The biggest concern for US but particularly for Israel and Arab states is that how a “sanctions relieved” Iran behaves (while Israel is staunchly opposing as for as JCPOA is concerned).