The reactivation of the nuclear agreement that the great powers closed with Iran in 2015, to prevent Tehran from acquiring an atomic weapon, was practically completed after 11 months of negotiations when Russia invaded Ukraine. The outbreak of the armed conflict in Europe is weighing down the culmination of the electoral promise of the president of the United States, Joe Biden, – vice president of the also Democrat Barack Obama when it was signed – to revive the validity of a pact that was suspended in 2018 by Republican Donald Trump. Diplomatic efforts have continued, despite everything, in Vienna to try to revive the officially called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), endorsed by China, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia and the United States.
Both superpowers left the final signature in limbo after the sanctions imposed on Moscow by Western countries for the invasion of Ukraine. Russia, whose mission to recover part of the Iranian enriched uranium is decisive for the success of the nuclear agreement, demanded that the economic retaliation for its military intervention not affect its bilateral relations with Tehran. His Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, assured last week that he had received “written guarantees” to be able to continue fulfilling his role in the nuclear agreement “through Russian companies and technicians.” The European Union, which coordinates the proximity talks in Vienna, explained through the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, that “external factors had forced a pause”, without offering further details.
The US State Department spokesman Ned Price was quick to point out that “Russia’s participation in nuclear projects aimed at resume application of the JCPOA, although we have not given other guarantees that they will go further”. “We are very close to the agreement, but we have not yet closed it,” the US diplomatic spokesman then acknowledged.
After Washington’s optimistic response to separate the Iranian nuclear agreement from the course of the war in Ukraine, uncertainty has returned in less than a week. “There has been progress. However, a deal is neither imminent nor assured. We prepare for any scenario.” Price replied Monday afternoon to questions from the press. “We are prepared to make difficult decisions in order to reactivate the nuclear agreement, but we will not respond to the request to lift sanctions. [específicas]”, clinched the State Department spokesman, referring to eventual demands from Moscow. Washington fears that the Kremlin will resort to the Iranian commercial route to circumvent the sanctions for the aggression against Ukraine.
Both Russia and the United States have stalled the final advance of the Vienna talks as bombs continue to fall on Ukrainian cities. In terms of negotiating tactics, the break in official activity in Tehran, which represents the Nworuz festivities, the Iranian New Year that coincides with the beginning of spring, plays in favor of the parties. The gesture of freeing, following these celebrations, two british citizens who had been detained in Iran for years has been welcomed by Western negotiators, who are confident that it will continue with the forthcoming release of several Americans.
The understanding to reactivate the JCPOA in its original terms of 2015 has been agreed upon for some time. But nothing will be agreed until the last points have been resolved, estimate analysts from the international press, who have closely followed the negotiations. They take for granted that the clauses agreed to seven years ago under President Obama’s administration will be maintained, some of which could remain in force until 2025 or 2030, and even indefinitely, depending on the case.
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One of the thorniest stumbling blocks, along with the control of Iran’s ballistic missiles, is the withdrawal of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps from the US list of terrorist organizations, a point that did not appear in the agreement Three years later, President Trump made the unprecedented decision to blacklist a force from an internationally recognized state.
Washington faces the dilemma of meeting this last demand of Tehran’s negotiators to give free rein to the nuclear pact or snub its allies in the Middle East, who see the Al Quds Force, the expeditionary body of the Guardians of the Revolution, as support of extremist groups in the region. A thinly veiled allusion to the Lebanese Shiite militia of Hezbollah, deployed in the war in Syria, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
In an unexpected regional summit, the president of Egypt, Abdelfatá al Sisi; The Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett, and the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed, have met from Monday to Tuesday in Sharm el Sheikh, on the Sinai Peninsula. The common front message before the lifting of sanctions on Tehran and its expeditionary force has caught on, despite the vagueness of the official statements. The Israeli prime minister’s cabinet only reported the holding of talks between the three countries to “strengthen ties at all levels.”
It has also transpired that the conflict in Ukraine was one of the central issues of the high-level meeting, along with the “continued threat from Iran”, as stated by Khaled Okasha, director of Egypt’s Center for Strategic Studies, quoted by Reuters. The Israeli deputy foreign minister, Idan Roll, was even more explicit in statements to the Hebrew public radio, assuring that the Red Sea conclave had consolidated an “axis of economic and defense cooperation in the Middle East”. “Israel is committed”, he added, “in building an alliance with all possible partners against the radical axis of Iran”.
Conclave of the regional axis in front of Tehran
“Egypt limited itself to reporting, in a brief statement by the spokesman for the Presidency, Basam Rady, after the meeting that the three leaders addressed in Sharm el Sheikh, among other issues, the state of the energy sector, the stability of the markets and the food safety reports Mark Spanish from Cairo. These are three issues that are of particular concern to Egypt, especially in the current state of global economic volatility, since it is a net importer of crude oil, oil derivatives and basic foodstuffs and since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine it has suffered a painful capital flight that adds pressure to its liquidity problems.
The leaders also discussed, according to the same sources, a series of regional and international issues. One of the most important scenarios for Cairo in this area is neighboring Sudan, where Egypt, Israel and the United Arab Emirates have adopted positions very close to the generals who carried out a coup in October. Cairo has also been concerned about the speed with which the normalization of relations between Israel and the Gulf is advancing for fear of seeing its regional influence reduced.
Since the beginning of the year, the Egyptian president has accelerated his diplomatic activity in the Gulf region and has met with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and with Mohamed Bin Zayed himself, the Emirati’s de facto ruler, in order to coordinate a joint response to the growing tension between Russia and the West and, even more critical to their interests, securing financial assistance to deal with their growing economic problems.