What’s next after the Iran nuclear deal extension?
After failing to meet the July 20 deadline to reach a comprehensive nuclear deal, and after 16 days of intense diplomatic negotiations in Vienna, the six world powers (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China) and Iran agreed to extend the interim nuclear deal for an additional four months until November 24, 2014.
Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has proposed another plan that indicates that the Islamic Republic would put a cap on Iran’s nuclear enrichment between three to seven years; however, Iran would be permitted to enrich uranium as much as they desire after this period.
Who is the winner?
With regard to the Islamic Republic, Iran is going to receive an additional $2.8 billion in oil export revenues. These revenues are frozen in other countries due to the sanction imposed by the United States. Secretary of State John Kerry pointed out the P5+1 “will allow Iran access to $2.8 billion dollars of its restricted assets, the four-month prorated amount of the original JPOA [Joint Plan of Action] commitment.”
Financially speaking, in the first six months of the interim nuclear deal, Iran won by receiving approximately $7 billion. Part of these amounts came after sanctions relief on some Iranian industries including the automobile industry, gold, and petrochemicals. The rest of the $7 billion came from the release of the frozen assets in oil-export revenues.
With regards to the United States, President Barack Obama has successfully avoided dealing with the other option (which he is totally reluctant to cope with): The military option in case nuclear negations and diplomacy with the Iranian leaders failed.
The two critical and major players in these nuclear talks are the United States and the Islamic Republic. With regard to the nuclear settlement, the gap between the Islamic Republic and United States is still too deep to bridge.
Considering the intricacies and examining Iran’s nuclear file and Tehran’s defiance, it becomes evident that the four month extension of diplomatic negotiations is barely enough to resolve these major hurdles.
The major barriers between the P5+1 (mainly the Western members: France, United Kingdom, Germany and the United States) and the Islamic Republic come down to the restriction of Iran’s production of plutonium, the dismantlement of crucial segments of the uranium enrichment program, the limiting of stockpiling and production, the question of Fordow, its underground nuclear facility center, the extent as to how the Islamic Republic should provide data with regards to its development, what type of nuclear research can be carried out, and how many centrifuges Iran can retain.
As illustrated above, the gaps between the six world powers and Iran would more likely require more than four months of extensions as well as a significant shift in Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s stance on his government’s nuclear program, or a remarkable change in the six world power’s stance.
It appears that the aim of the United States, Germany, France and United Kingdom is to make sure that Iran’s nuclear program is restricted enough that the Islamic Republic would require a much longer amount of time to spin its centrifuges and highly enriched uranium into nuclear weapons.
On the other hand, Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the hardliners appear to be aiming at elevating the Islamic Republic to a nuclear threshold (such as Japan), if not turning Iran into nuclear state and obtaining nuclear weapons.
Oppositions and domestic politics
Most likely, the domestic pressure on the Obama administration, from both Republican and Democrats, is going to ratchet up in Washington. Several lawmakers in Washington believe that the Iranian leaders have been playing around and tricking the United States, while Tehran is getting sanction relief without agreeing to dismantle any part of its nuclear program.
U.S. Senator Bob Corker, a Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated, “With a disappointing beginning negotiating position that included a built-in extension, we all knew this was coming… In spite of that, every diplomatic effort should be pursued vigorously to reach an acceptable conclusion and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. I urge the administration to make it clear there will be no more extensions, which would only further diminish our leverage. Just as he did in the case of Syria last year, the president should come to Congress for approval so we can weigh in on the entirety of any final deal and strictly enforce Iranian compliance.”
300 members of Congress recently signed a letter to President Obama, urging that the Islamic Republic should stop supporting terrorists’ parties and limit its missile development in order to obtain sanctions relief. Nevertheless, President Obama did not include these conditions in the four month extension and sanctions relief.
In addition, all the efforts the U.S. congress, such as passing a sanction bill, will likely be vetoed by President Obama to not scuttle the diplomatic negotiations and to avoid the military option if nuclear talks failed.
On the other hand, hardliners, fundamentalists, and conservative elements in Iran will ratchet up their criticism of President Hassan Rowhani and Foreign Minister Zarif. Nevertheless, as long as Rowhani has the blessing of the Supreme Leader, the nuclear negotiations will not cease. In the meanwhile, Khamenei will continue playing the double game of supporting both Rowhani’s technocrat team and the hardliners in order to preserve his power.