Suspension of Nuclear Agreement Negotiations: Effort Must Not Be Abandoned

The future of rebuilding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has become uncertain. Hasan Rouhani’s administration, which has only a short time left in its term until early August has abandoned its efforts to reach a deal with the U.S.

The negotiations will be taken over by the administration of incoming President Ebrahim Raisi, who won a landslide victory in the presidential election. He is an anti-U.S. conservative hard-liner backed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His position is very different from that of Rouhani, who, as a moderate, has tried to maintain the international cooperation line.

Last year, the parliament, which was dominated by a large number of hard-liners, overcame the opposition of the administration and passed a new law requiring the government to expand its nuclear development program. There is a risk that the movement toward nuclear development will be further strengthened. There are concerns that this could provoke Israel, a rival nation, and lead to increased military tensions in the Middle East.

Indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran to rebuild the nuclear agreement, which began with the mediation of the European Union and other countries, have been suspended since late June. Iran has indicated that it will not respond until the new Iranian administration is inaugurated.

If these two countries become more confrontational and the situation in the Middle East becomes unstable, the impact will be felt throughout the world. The efforts that have been made to reach a nuclear agreement must not be abandoned. The early resumption of talks by all the countries concerned is essential.

Indirect talks have been coordinated around the lifting of economic sanctions, such as the embargo on crude oil from Iran and banking transactions with foreign countries, while Iran also has lowered its uranium enrichment level and fully accepted inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In May, senior EU officials involved in the talks also indicated that they expected to reach a final agreement. The difficulty seems to have been the scope of sanctions to be lifted.

The conservative hard-liners who won the election are insistent on the full lifting of sanctions. Raisi reportedly complained to the current administration about the progress of the negotiations and insisted that the U.S. compensate Iran for the damage caused by the sanctions.

U.S. sanctions include not only nuclear-related activities, but also ballistic missile development and espionage activities throughout the Middle East. The Revolutionary Guard Corps, a strong base of support for Raisi, is involved. The U.S. considers it a terrorist organization and intends to maintain hundreds of sanctions related to it.

In future talks, Iran is likely to take a stronger stance in its demand for lifting economic sanctions. The U.S. position, which derailed the nuclear agreement after Donald Trump’s administration withdrew the United States from it, will also be questioned. It is essential that the U.S. administration proceed with negotiations calmly while demonstrating to Iran a clear will to return to the nuclear agreement.

The U.K., France and Germany have also united in their efforts to rebuild the nuclear agreement and have been increasing the momentum to make it happen. We hope they will continue to work together to make progress. Japan, which has close ties with Iran, has an important role to play in the diplomatic effort.

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