mideast marathon

US Further Complicates Its Return To The Nuclear Deal With Iran
Moon of Alabama, Feb 25 2021

A week ago we found that Biden’s slow-walking of a US return to the nuclear deal with Iran makes no sense if we presume that doing so is really his aim:

The Biden administration demands that Iran fully come back under the restrictions of the deal, to agree to an extension of some restriction under the deal and to agree to talks about its missile programs and its role in the Middle East. Only after that, says the Biden administration, would the US remove some of its sanctions. The demands are nonsense and have absolutely no chance of being fulfilled. It is the US that is in breach of the deal. Biden could simply reenter it by lifting the sanctions Trump imposed. Iran had promised that it would follow through by coming back into the technical limits of the deal. But instead of agreeing to that the Biden administration is trying to create a more complicated process by coordinating its negotiation positions with Saudi Arabia, Israel and other opponents of the deal.

Then came the announcement of a brigade-strength deployment of NATO forces to Iraq, with the obviously aim to put pressure on Iran:

It is likely that the US sees the additional troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as a pressure point that can be used against Iran in the rather hopeless attempt to renegotiate the nuclear agreement with Iran into a larger surrender document. Iran will not surrender. The NATO troops will become hostages of US policies and may well take casualties. Why the European NATO countries agreed to put themselves into this no-win situation is beyond me.

In between, Iran reached an agreement with the IAEA:

In response to the murder by Israel of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh the conservative parliament passed a law that compels the moderate government under the Iranian President Rohani to further reduce its adherence to the JCPoA deal. As part of this the Iranian government will soon reduce the ability of the international inspectors from the IAEA to observe parts of its civilian nuclear program.

The Iranian parliament had instructed the government of President Rouhani to restrict the IAEA’s activity. But Iran’s President Rouhani wants to hold up good relations with the IAEA. He agreed on a compromise under which IAEA surveillance cameras, installed at various nuclear sites in Iran, will continue to work. The captured video and data will be archived for three months before it will be deleted:

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said Sunday that the two sides had reached the temporary “technical understanding” following his trip to Iran, which had recently signaled plans to scale back cooperation with the global nuclear watchdog. The interim deal reached Sunday would alleviate the impact of Iran pulling out of the additional protocol. Grossi said: “What we agreed to is something that is viable, it’s useful to bridge this gap that we are having now, salvages the situation now.”

If the US returns to the deal within the next three months, the IAEA will receive all the stored data. If no deal is reached the data will be deleted and the IAEA will lose insight to Iran’s program. Rouhani was lambasted by conservative in the Iranian parliament for agreeing to this and for thereby giving the US more time. But neither words nor deeds by the Biden administration show a real effort to return to the deal. It presumably did not like the IAEA’s effort to prolong the negotiation time frame before Iran takes stricter measures. Today it started efforts to use the IAEA to further sabotage the relation:

The US is asking other countries to support a formal censure of Iran over its accelerating nuclear activities, a signal that the Biden administration wants to turn up the diplomatic heat on Tehran as it looks to restore a crumbling 2015 accord. The IAEA’s board of governors convenes next week in Vienna to discuss the latest reports that Iran has stepped up production of nuclear fuel while stalling inquiries into the presence of uranium particles at undeclared sites. US diplomats circulated a document on Thursday which lists Washington’s grievances and orders Iran to fully cooperate with inspectors. The proposed resolution would “underscore strong concern at the IAEA’s findings” and “express the board’s deepening concern with respect to Iran’s cooperation,” read the three-page document seen by Bloomberg. The proposed censure suggests the US is ratcheting up the pressure. According to the document: “The world has long known that Iran pursued nuclear weapons in the past. We also know that Iran retained a vast collection of records from its past nuclear weapons program. Iran must now cooperate fully with the IAEA so we may have assurance that the legacy of Iran’s past nuclear weapons work does not include undeclared nuclear material in Iran today.” A suggestion that Iran could be providing incomplete information has potentially serious consequences, including another referral to the UNSC.

Iran is still within the limits of the JCPoA deal. It has exceeded some technical limits which is allowed under §36 of the JCPoA if the other side, the US and European countries, do not fulfill their commitments. The old documents that Iran has archived are well known to the IAEA. The programs described in them have long been shut down and all issues with them were closed when the nuclear deal was signed. That the Biden administration is now pushing these old issues at the IAEA is totally unnecessary if it really wants to return to the deal.

It was the US which left the deal, and it is the US that makes unrealistic preconditions to reentering it. Iran is within the limits of the deal the US left, but the US wants to censure Iran at the IAEA.

The US attempt to abuse the IAEA to censure Iran is likely designed to bring the European participants of the JCPOA deal onto its side by pressing them to support its hard line approach at the IAEA. Iran thinks that Britain, Germany and France, aka the E3, wanted this IAEA stunt:

Iran accuses Britain, France and Germany, the E3, of having initiated the US plans to censure Tehran at the IAEA. Speaking to Amwaj.media on condition of anonymity, Iranian sources allege that France is now leading a charge behind the scenes to single out Tehran at the Agency’s Board of Governors meeting next week. They also warn that such efforts will jeopardize Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA.

If a majority at the IAEA votes to censure Iran over exceeding the technical limits of the original deal the issue would escalate to the UNSC. There China and Russia would veto any further measure. On top of the IAEA move the State Dept issued a hypocritical and empty threat:

The US’ patience with Iran on returning to discussions over the 2015 nuclear deal is “not unlimited,” State Dept spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday. Asked at a news briefing whether there was an expiration date on the offer, Price said Iran’s moves away from compliance with the 2015 agreement’s restrictions on its nuclear activities made the issue an “urgent challenge” for the US. Price said: “Our patience is not unlimited, but we do believe, and the president has been clear on this, that the most effective way to ensure Iran could never acquire a nuclear weapon was through diplomacy.”

And then what? Russia as well as China have today urged the US to stop this nonsense, to immediately lift the sanctions on Iran and to return to the deal:

Developments surrounding Iran’s nuclear program are at a “critical point” and lifting sanctions on the country is key to breaking the deadlock, China’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

The attitude of the Biden administration towards a return to the nuclear deal seems extremely hostile. It is completely unnecessary if the aim is really to reactivate the deal. The US could just lift the sanctions against Iran. Iran would then came back into the technical limits of the deal and the whole issue would be be done with. The Biden administration wants a bigger deal, and it seems to believe that it could reach it with more pressure. But despite ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions the Obama, as well as the Trump administration, failed to get more concessions from Iran than are included in the original JCPoA deal. The US balance of power positions has since not improved while Iran has learned to live under ‘maximum pressure.’ Since it agreed to the JCPoA it has also gained the support of Russia and China. Iran is not willing to give any further concession. It also has the ability to make the life for the US and its allies in the Middle East much more complicate and dangerous. It is Iran that has escalation dominance, not the US. Which again leaves the question what endgame the Biden administration foresees. The aggressive track it is currently on points to war. But a war against Iran is not winnable. It would create huge damage to the US and its allies. It makes absolutely no sense to risk one over a few unreasonable demands which Iran, as any other truly sovereign country, is sure to reject. To insists on these demands means only that the US will lose face when it finally has to drop them.

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