The Iran nuclear deal: on the cusp of an agreement this time?

The Iran nuclear deal: on the cusp of an agreement this time?
With recent news surfacing on the Iran nuclear deal, many believe an agreement could be around the corner, and some worry this could be the last chance to get it done. Still, important hurdles remain before a deal can be announced.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
17 August, 2022
The Iran nuclear deal continues. [Getty]

With the potential for an Iranian nuclear deal resurfacing over the past several days, some analysts see indications that a breakthrough could be reached soon. 

The indirect negotiations between the US and Iran via the European Union, more than a year on, is US President Joe Biden's attempt to renegotiate an anti-nuclear proliferation and sanctions relief bill his predecessor Donald Trump scrapped in 2018, seeing it as a mistake by former President Barack Obama. Since taking office, Biden has been trying to revive the deal.  

Just days ago, Iran requested reassurance that the US would be held accountable for staying in the deal, in what many are seeing as a possible turning point. 

"The language coming from the Iranian side suggests that they're trying to prepare the Iranian audience for some sort of a deal," James Devine, associate professor of politics and international relations at Mount Allison University, told The New Arab.  

"They're saying it's a good deal but not a perfect deal. They have to make compromises. That shows they're not just mustering. Maybe there's something in the works," said Devine.  

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"We're getting closer to the point where we get a deal or both sides will say it’s not going to happen," he said. "If this falls apart, it’s harder to go back to the negotiating table. It's getting later and later. If they say really close and have to call off the talks again, it undermines the credibility of the negotiators." 

The multilayered renegotiations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, have been under tight wraps since they began in Vienna in April 2021, with occasional moments of what has appeared to be near-breakthroughs, only to once again resume the carefully guarded talks.

The main difference this time is Iran's request to hold the US accountable if it withdraws from the deal. The recent stabbing attack on exiled Iranian dissident writer Salman Rushdie on Friday does not appear to have affected negotiations, though it has raised concerns over the character of the Iranian government, however disconnected they are from Rushdie's attacker.

Devine notes that in addition to Iran's need for reassurances of a solid deal from the US, there's also the issue of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps being called a terrorist organisation. This could make a difference in the scope of sanctions and could make it harder for the US to have discussions or negotiations with members of the ICRG. Some have suggested focusing the sanctions on specific individuals.

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In addition, Iran has been accused of cheating on the JCPOA with its uranium enrichment. Iran doesn’t want investigations from the International Atomic Energy Agency, an independent organisation. If it is found to be in violation of the deal, this could spark a crisis.  

As it stands, the deal appears to be at a critical juncture, where it will need to move forward or possibly lose its purpose. The more time that passes, the more Iran has the chance to develop its nuclear technology. Meanwhile, it is increasingly seeing Russia and China as reliable trading partners, lessening the impact of US-imposed sanctions. The US could very well be the primary beneficiary of a renegotiated deal. 

"The ball is in the US's court to finalise this," Sina Toossi, a Washington-based Iranian analyst told TNA. "I think the broader context is with the global political economy. Energy prices have gone up. The world needs oil. If Iran could export oil again at lower prices, that will be a selling point." 

He said, "Despite all the shortcomings, the alternative will still be bad for all sides. This is the reason the deal has continued."