Return to Iran nuclear deal would be disastrous for region
Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential election has again sparked heated debate about the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.
To begin with, it is crucial to examine the Iranian regime’s stance toward the deal. Generally speaking, if Tehran desires a deal, it implies that it serves the interests of the regime. The position of the Iranian authorities is clear: They are desperate to return to the nuclear deal. President Hassan Rouhani has already urged Biden to return to the JCPOA when he takes office. The state-run IRNA news agency quoted him as saying: “An opportunity has come up for the next US administration to compensate for past mistakes and return to the path of complying with international agreements through respect of international norms.” Foreign Minister Javad Zarif reiterated the message on Twitter, advising Biden to abandon President Donald Trump’s Iran policy and seek international cooperation.
The desire of the Iranian president and foreign minister to go back to the 2015 deal suggests that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is also on board. This is due to the fact that Khamenei has the final say on Iran’s foreign policy. Rouhani and Zarif would not have signaled that they want a return to the nuclear deal without the supreme leader’s blessing.
The Iranian leaders are fortunate that Biden is also in favor of rejoining the nuclear deal. After all, the deal was reached when Biden was vice president in the Obama administration. In addition, his remarks about the nuclear deal indicate that rejoining it will be a top priority once he moves into the White House. In a September opinion piece for CNN, he wrote: “I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal’s provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern.”
Nevertheless, the US rejoining the JCPOA would have serious repercussions for regional stability and peace. First of all, it would mean that many of the current sanctions against Tehran would be lifted and the regime would be able to rejoin the global financial system. Through the nuclear deal, the regime will again be given a blank check to advance its aggressive, zero-sum policies across the Middle East, just as it did after the agreement was signed off in 2015.
The nuclear deal allowed the flow of billions of dollars into the Iranian regime’s treasury, providing the revenues Tehran needed to escalate its military adventurism and finance, arm and support its terror and militia groups in the region. After the agreement was signed, Iran’s meddling, interventions in the region and funding of militia groups escalated. It also increased its deliveries of weapons to its proxy militias, as the number of ballistic missiles they deployed rose to an unprecedented level.
Secondly, with the return of the nuclear deal, the regime would gain global legitimacy, making world leaders more reluctant to hold the Iranians accountable for their malign and destructive behavior, as well as their terror activities around the world.
Thirdly, the nuclear deal contains fundamental flaws, including the sunset clauses that will remove the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program after the agreement expires. Iran’s military sites, such as Parchin, which is reportedly where nuclear development and research is carried out, will also be out of the reach of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors. In addition, the nuclear deal contains no reference to Iran’s ballistic missile program, which is a core pillar of its foreign policy and appears to be linked to the nuclear program.
After the agreement was signed, Iran’s meddling, interventions in the region and funding of militia groups escalated.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Finally, rejoining the nuclear deal will again alienate other countries in the Middle East and inevitably lead to a worsening of relations with traditional US allies. When the JCPOA was being negotiated, Iran’s neighbors were needlessly excluded, despite living on the country’s doorstep and experiencing the consequences of Iranian proxy action more acutely than any of the deal’s signatories. This generated a flawed agreement that failed to recognize their rightful concerns about missile proliferation and the funding of violent proxies within and next door to their territories.
The Iran nuclear deal was a political disaster. The US rejoining it would be a serious threat to regional peace and stability and would only embolden and empower the Iranian regime, its mercenaries and network of militia and terror groups throughout the region.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh