The Best Chance for the Iran Negotiations

The International Atomic Energy Agency issued a resolution last Wednesday against the Iranian nuclear program. Beyond being simply a statement on nuclear or technical issues, the resolution was political. The resolution against Iran by the IAEA Board of Governors was in fact politically motivated in part by American domestic politics. The Biden administration sought to issue a resolution against Iran that was not too harsh, so it could pretend that Iran is refusing to cooperate and thereby justify more decisive action against the country. In this way, the Democrats could preempt Republican criticism of the administration and prevent Republicans from campaigning on the Iran issue in the upcoming congressional midterm elections.

At the same time, the negotiations in Vienna to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have halted, and the IAEA’s monitoring efforts in Iran have been on pause for a while. The agency was worried about this and hoped to resume monitoring as soon as possible. But then it issued this resolution, which provides that Iran must cooperate with IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi and respond to IAEA questions about three sites they consider to be of interest.

However, the IAEA never imagined that Iran’s reaction would be so severe. Iran’s natural response to this provocation was to partially halt the work of the inspectors, the IAEA and Grossi in Iran. Iran reasoned that since Grossi traveled to Israel several days prior to the resolution, he is under Israeli influence and accordingly convinced his Board of Governors to take action against Iran. Iranian media and government officials widely covered Grossi’s travel to Israel last week on the eve of a meeting with the Board of Governors. The West prepared and approved a draft resolution Wednesday evening, and expected that Iran’s reaction to the resolution would be severe.

But they can play whatever political games they like. Iran is under pressure to accept additional inspections while the Democratic administration is achieving its own political goals. But the West did not expect Iran’s actual reaction and panicked. In interviews, articles and statements, it mentioned that Iran’s nuclear breakout time is short, now possibly as low as one or two weeks. When Iran’s Supreme National Security Council shut down the cameras and restarted the IR-6 centrifuges, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran publicly confirmed Iran’s response. TV reports about these steps caused a sense of panic in the West and throughout the entire region.

In response, officials in the West and all over the Middle East reacted harshly. You can think of the Zionist regime’s prime minister’s unexpected visit to the United Arab Emirates as part of this reaction. The reaction to what Iran did also included an incident in which two American Phantom jets were escorted on a flight by Israeli and Saudi Arabian aircraft, harsh statements by three European countries and a trip by U.S. Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley to Qatar. Iran has taken its own steps and offered what it considers to be its strongest appropriate response. The other side remains in a panic, worried about what will happen in the coming weeks given they now lack information from their inspectors and monitoring devices.

It’s best that Iran stay the course while it subtly pursues further negotiations. We need to wait and see what Qatar discusses with Malley, as Qatar will certainly communicate the substance of those talks to us; perhaps there will even be a trip to Tehran in the near future. Throughout all of this, we must avoid increasing tension, as the current circumstances make that unwise. But Iran should also stand firm on the steps it has already taken until there is agreement on some sort of negotiations in parallel with the negotiations in Vienna to revive the JCPOA. In fact, it is a good thing that these negotiations are not taking place openly, as they can both lower tensions and get a better final deal. This writer is of the opinion that it is not too late and still possible to count on Qatari mediation and the message from Malley that they will act to bring an end to this crisis.

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