The Future Trajectory of Iran. JCPOA: A Bridge Too Far?


03-08-21 02:05:00,

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On Tuesday, Ebrahim Raisi will be formally confirmed as Iran’s next president by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Two days later, he will be sworn in as president in the country’s parliament. Yet another orderly transfer of power is under way in Iran.

This transition is of momentous importance for the future trajectory of Iran, regional politics and international security. That is because a rare confluence of circumstances has appeared over the Iran nuclear issue and a new mainstream is taking shape in Tehran. 

Contrary to expectations, the negotiations since April in Vienna over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) are in a state of suspended animation. Things could go either way. 

On the one hand, Raisi is widely regarded as an arch conservative (‘hardliner’) which means that the United States is getting a much tougher interlocutor in Tehran, although Iran’s compass remains well set under the watchful eyes of the Supreme Leader. 

On the other hand, the Biden presidency is coming under pressure with the early signs that the much-vaunted strong economic recovery from the deep recession in 2020 may be hitting a snag. The massive stimulus and the buoyant Wall Street haven’t fired up the economic acceleration but will inevitably drive up the inflationary pressure. The resurgence of the Delta variant of coronavirus from America’s south to north also bring in uncertainties. 

Simply put, President Biden cannot afford to be seen as a ‘weak’ negotiator at Vienna. Conversely, Tehran would sense that Biden may not even have the political capital to get Congressional approval for a new nuclear deal, which means that history may repeat. 

In fact, the US officials are already arguing that no American president can guarantee that an agreement with a foreign country will not be undone by a future president or Congress. 

Given the tortuous history of the US-Iran relations and the trust deficit, Tehran once again faces the dilemma of negotiating a deal with an uncertain shelf life whose expiry date may lapse even before the incumbent American president retires. 

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