In the current era of geopolitical change, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime is facing challenges due to perceived inconsistencies, and there are notable shifts in geopolitical dynamics favoring Iran. Iran has acquired heightened leverage in its negotiations with the United States and Western countries about its nuclear program due to the changing dynamics in the Middle East.
Considerable negotiations have taken place over the recently established mini-deal between the United States and Iran. After a round of talks, both nations reached a consensus. With the completion of this mini-deal, a total of five American citizens will be granted permission to leave Iran. This decision is contingent upon Tehran’s acquisition of $6 billion, which would be used towards humanitarian endeavors. Additionally, the United States will reciprocate by freeing several detained Iranians.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Iran and six major world powers, including the US, signed in 2015, serves as the foundation for the mini-nuclear deal. The JCPOA imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities and allowed international inspections in exchange for sanctions relief. However, in 2018, former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran. This led Iran to gradually violate the terms of the deal and resume its nuclear enrichment. The current accord has notable disparities with the JCPOA. Nevertheless, there exist a multitude of uncertainties about its prospective trajectory, prompting a consensus to be achieved and the potential for its long-term sustainability. White House officials have been spotted using words such as “mini agreements” and “interim arrangements” to allude to the deal since the whole facts of the transaction have not been fully released. The Biden Administration is endeavoring to devise a strategy to circumvent the core provisions of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. The need for any nuclear agreement with Iran to undergo legislative scrutiny diminishes the optimism associated with the interim solution since the deal is susceptible to rejection by Congress if presented for its consideration.
It is imperative to acknowledge that a definitive agreement has not yet been reached. The primary objective of the deal seems to be the cessation of Iranian nuclear enrichment at the 60% level. Nonetheless, it is certain that Iran now has a greater degree of leverage compared to its previous position. Iran has adopted a constructive approach and expressed its willingness to conclude the discussions. But Iran’s equivocal posture may be attributed to several factors. Iran has a desire to enhance its bargaining power and get favorable concessions from the United States and the European Union. Iran may agree to stop enriching uranium to near-weapons-grade levels and allow more access for inspectors, while the US may agree to lift some sanctions and unfreeze some Iranian assets. The mini-deal would also set a timeline for further negotiations on a broader agreement that would address other issues of concern.
The little agreement may alternatively be seen as a strategic move by the Biden administration, intended to capitalize on it for political advantage before the next presidential election. The primary aim would be to halt the progression of the Iranian nuclear program and ensure the liberation of some American individuals detained in Iranian correctional facilities, thereby maximizing the benefits derived from these accomplishments. Furthermore, the Biden administration seeks to prolong the deal until 2025, seeing it as a potential confidence-building measure that might potentially evolve into a comprehensive agreement similar to the JCPOA.
The prospects of a nuclear deal between Iran and the United States or Western countries within a larger framework depend on the decision of European Powers, who are parties to the JCPOA and have not yet withdrawn from the accord. Nevertheless, the agreement would still be vulnerable to the influence of a single event in Israel. Engaging in acts, such as targeting an Iranian nuclear site or carrying out an assassination of its nuclear personnel, has the potential to undermine any advancements made and revert the situation to its initial state, or perhaps exacerbate tensions in the West Asian region.
The perspective of Saudi Arabia towards the mini-deal is expected to exhibit a cautious and realistic approach. For many decades, Saudi Arabia and Iran have engaged in a rivalry characterized by their pursuit of regional dominance. Saudi Arabia has expressed concern over the increasing relations between Iran and China, seeing them as a possible threat to its own economic and geopolitical interests. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia may acknowledge the advantages associated with the decrease in tensions. Saudi Arabia may want to mitigate the potential for a military altercation with Iran, particularly if the United States and Israel choose to engage in actions against Iran’s nuclear installations. Saudi Arabia is unlikely to sever its alliance with the United States or its hostility to Iran’s regional influence. However, it may endeavor to maintain equilibrium in its ties with China and look for potential areas of collaboration with Iran.
In recent times, the geopolitical dynamics in West Asia have seen notable transformations, characterized by Iran’s efforts to enhance its diplomatic ties with neighboring nations, in contrast to its historical trajectory. Iran has also been strengthening its diplomatic relations with China and Russia, two global powers, despite the sanctions. Both Russia and China continue to engage in trade with Iran. With the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, these three states defy the liberal norms of the US and its Western allies. They have the same objective of strengthening economic and security collaboration and enhancing strategic partnerships. So, the US is pursuing Iran for a mini-nuclear deal because it wants to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and restore stability in the region. The US also hopes to address other issues with Iran, such as its missile program and its support for proxy groups, in a follow-up agreement.
Iran’s perspective towards the small agreement might potentially be influenced by its assessment of the United States intentions and credibility. The United States’ decision to leave the JCPOA in 2018 and the subsequent re-imposition of sanctions may be to blame for Iran’s potential lack of confidence in it. Iran may have skepticism about the United States’ capacity to fulfill its commitments, considering the possible resistance from Congress, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other entities in the area. Iran may also have concerns over the potential use of the mini-agreement by the United States to impose more requirements on Iran about its missile development and its regional involvement.
There are several concerns about Iran’s potential propensity to revive the nuclear agreement. Iran has shown a potential willingness to engage in discussion; nevertheless, it emphasizes the need to safeguard its security and sovereignty. The mini-deal faces many challenges and uncertainties. It is not clear if Iran’s new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, will accept the terms of the deal or if he will face opposition from other factions in Iran. It is also not clear if Biden will be able to convince Congress and US allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, to support the deal or if he will face legal or political obstacles.
In conclusion, the US is pursuing a mini-nuclear deal with Iran because it believes that diplomacy is the best way to prevent a nuclear crisis and to create an opportunity for dialogue on other issues. However, the path to a mini-deal is not easy, and there are many hurdles and risks along the way. The US and Iran will have to show flexibility and goodwill to reach a mutual understanding and restore trust after years of hostility.