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Iran-US Nuclear Deal Hangs in the Balance, Military Option Looms

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

Tehran has denied reports that an interim nuclear deal with the United States is imminent. The Iranian mission to the United States maintained that "There is no interim deal to replace the JCPOA," adding that no such agreement is on the agenda. Iranian Foreign Ministry also dismissed the reports as baseless. The ministry emphasized that the talks between Iran and the U.S. are still in progress, but no agreement has been reached yet. Reuters reported comments from two anonymous Iranian officials, stating that an imminent agreement is not on the horizon. White House National Security Council told Reuters: "Any reports of an interim deal are false."

Mohsen Naziri Asl, Iran's permanent representative at the United Nations office in Vienna, said (June 7) that, "Despite the prolonged and challenging negotiations that lasted over 18 months, we were unable to conclude the talks primarily due to the lack of political will and determination from the American side."

The London-based Middle East Eye (MEE) news and analysis website reported that Iran and the USA are on the verge of agreeing to revive the JCPOA. The report suggests that direct talks have been held on U.S. soil, with Amir Saeed Iravani, Iran's newly appointed ambassador to the United Nations, leading the discussions on the Iranian side. Robert Malley, the U.S. special envoy on Iran, has engaged in multiple face-to-face meetings with Iravani representing the American side. In addition to the bilateral talks between Iran and the U.S., Qatar has emerged as a facilitator, offering assistance in resolving banking-related issues that have emerged as a significant point of contention.

As per the agreement's conditions, Iran would agree to halt its uranium enrichment activities beyond 60 percent and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure the monitoring and verification of its nuclear program. In return, the sources indicate that Tehran would be granted permission to export up to one million barrels of oil daily and regain access to its frozen funds and other income held abroad.

Iravani has sent the details of the proposed deal with the U.S. to senior decision-makers in Tehran for their approval. However, whether Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Supreme National Security Council will approve the deal is unclear. Malley warned that if Iran begins 90 percent uranium enrichment, the Pentagon will take control of the Iranian nuclear Dossier from the State Department; this would imply that Malley could hint at the potential for military action against Iran's nuclear program.

Iran continues to stall negotiations with the United States while rapidly advancing its nuclear program. Iran has refused to agree to any new agreement that would change the timetables for its nuclear program, as set out in the original agreement.

According to Nuclear Deal Sunset provisions, in October 2023 U.N. is expected to lift restrictions on Iran's research, development, and production of ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons. Next year (July 2024), the JCPOA will lift some limits on Iran's testing of advanced IR-6 and IR-8 centrifuges that enrich uranium.

The original nuclear agreement with Iran had a significant flaw: it would have eventually allowed Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This is because the deal should have addressed Iran's history of deception and concealment and included robust verification measures. This history of deception meant that Iran could break out any time it chose, even under the constraints of the original agreement.

Today Iran continues to bargain, only for the sake of bargaining, with the United States for a "less for less" agreement. The Biden administration is playing into their hands. Since the president took office, Iran is no longer deterred. It continues its diplomatic momentum (renewal of relations with Saudi Arabia under the auspices of China and tightening of economic and military ties with Russia) while at the same time advancing its nuclear and missile program.

The Iranian government is willing to pay a high price for its nuclear program, but it will not do anything that could jeopardize the survival of its regime.

The military option has resurfaced, mainly advocated by prominent Israeli politicians and security officials. Simultaneously, the notion of regime change remains under discussion. Although the protests in Iran have temporarily subsided, there are still remnants of unrest. The question arises: Will the Western nations support the Iranian opposition, considering that the alternative, the military option, could potentially escalate tensions in the Middle East and have consequences for Europe and the United States?


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