JCPOA, An Opportunity for Iran to Strive toward Large-Scale Goals

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Abbas Maleki
Associate Professor at Sharif University of Technology’s Faculty of Energy, Tehran

In December 2013 and at the end of another round of nuclear talks between Iran and the member states of the so-called P5+1 group, the negotiating sides decided that to find solutions for the comprehensive settlement of Iran's nuclear case, they should hold meetings in order to achieve two final goals: firstly, to prove that Iran's nuclear program is of a purely peaceful nature, and secondly, to have all sanctions against the Islamic Republic removed. The text that was read out in the evening of April 2, 2015, at the Federal Institute of Technology in the Swiss city of Lausanne, regardless of what we may call it, marked a major step toward finding an ultimate solution to Iran's nuclear case. According to Iran's Mehr new agency, and as put by an Iranian diplomat, the solutions included in that statement are not legally binding and are merely good as conceptual guidelines for the formulation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Therefore, that statement was only the bedrock for the JCPOA whose formulation will start in the near future on the basis of the aforesaid solutions. Consequently, the legal analysis of the JCPOA should be left for a later time. In my opinion, however, technical assessment of the JCPOA is also both important and necessary, which undoubtedly will be carried out by experts in the field of nuclear technology. There are, however, a number of marginal points that I would like to raise here:

1. People, who have had the experience of working with non-Iranians, know that negotiations do not usually progress smoothly. This is especially true if you are working with non-Iranians who come from different nationality and cultural backgrounds. You can even perceive this difficulty by focusing on different conducts of various countries’ delegations in front of media cameras. For example, Ms. [Federica] Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, went toward correspondents after disembarking from her car and asked the person, who was supposed to hold an umbrella on her head, not to do so. Perhaps, she did this because some reporters did not have umbrellas. On the opposite, the Chinese delegation is constantly avoiding the media crews and its members are not willing to talk to reporters. The French Foreign Minister [Laurent] Fabius does not usually smile during interviews while [his German counterpart, Frank-Walter] Steinmeier generally appears optimistic. The US Secretary of State John Kerry is willing to project an image of himself, which would show that although he understands the Iranian side and their concerns, he also cares about the United States’ obligations toward other countries in the Middle East. [Sergei] Lavrov from Russia says he is not being paid to be optimistic. On the whole, it is very difficult to interact with such different persons and this is why we should appreciate the efforts made by Iranian diplomats in this regard.

2. The Lausanne statement includes a number of ambiguities as a result of which it has been interpreted differently by politicians in different countries. However, regardless of legal and technical issues, it seems that the statement is meant to send a very important message that should be taken into account, which is its psychological impact on the market. There is no doubt that the general course of negotiations in Lausanne has made global media reach the conclusion that sanctions imposed against Iran and Iranians are going to be removed. I, however, think that the issue of sanctions needs broader negotiations in view of diverse origins of those sanctions. Some sanctions have been imposed through resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council; some sanctions arise from decision of the European Union; there are sanctions that have been considered by the US Congress; other sanctions emanate from decisions of the US president; and finally there are sanctions that have been imposed by third countries as a result of all the aforesaid restrictive measures. However, there is no reason to wait for the lifting of sanctions. I believe that in any economic sector, establishing relations with similar companies in other countries should be tried once again, especially companies in those countries that have powerful economic and financial motivations to engage in trade with Iran. For example, we can negotiate purchase of copper with a Congolese company while discussing tea and tractor sales with Kenyan firms. Even within the 28-member European Union, those members with weaker economies are in dire need of expanding their foreign trade. Therefore, the existing opportunity should be taken advantage of in the best possible manner to implement new projects in regional countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Central Asia and Oman. Regional economic activities may sometimes not be as profitable as economic activities within Iran and this is exactly when the government should help exporters of engineering services.

3. In the energy sector, Iran is a country with great advantages with regard to most energy carriers. If, for any reason, Iran's nuclear activities are going to become limited for a number of years, there is no reason why we should not turn our attention to renewable energy resources as well as fossil fuels. A country with the biggest proven natural gas reserves in the world and having the world’s fourth proven oil reserves should not be a pure importer when it comes to one of these reserves. Up to the present time, officials in charge of Iran's oil and gas reserves put their hope in the removal of sanctions and subsequent expansion of cooperation with major international oil companies. Perhaps, up to the 20 years ago, a few world-renowned oil companies controlled the lion’s share of oil and gas trade across the world. However, like other commercial sectors, the number of small and medium enterprises active in the field of oil and gas in the world has exceeded one million. Although these companies do not have the capital and technology owned by major corporations, on the whole, they can help the Islamic Republic of Iran achieve the goals it has been pursuing according to its national energy policy.

4. Although the Lausanne statement has noted that the European Union (EU) will remove economic and financial sanctions imposed in relation to Iran's nuclear program, it should not be forgotten that the EU has considered its sanctions against Iran as “restrictive measures” during past years, not mere economic sanctions. Therefore, it is very unlikely that the EU countries will immediately lift sanctions against Iran. As a result, those Iranian persons and companies that have filed lawsuits with European courts against EU sanctions should follow up on their legal actions. Such Iranian companies as the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and universities like Sharif University of Technology, which have been more than once put on the list of EU’s sanctions, should seek judicial measures against those sanctions.

5. As for the role of the United Nations, the statement says, “A new UN Security Council resolution will endorse the JCPOA, terminate all previous nuclear-related resolutions, and incorporate certain restrictive measures for a mutually agreed period of time.” I personally believe that any role by the United Nations should be played with due attention to Russia. Russia is not willing to back those resolutions that are reversible. For example, the Security Council can adopt a resolution to terminate all previous resolutions, which restricted the activities of the Iranian government and nationals in relation to the nuclear case. As mentioned in the Lausanne statement, Western countries are willing for the new resolution to be drafted in such a way that if Iran went back on its obligations, the previous sanctions could be automatically reinstalled against the Islamic Republic. This method will not be compatible with the interests of Russia and China. Russia wants to have the opportunity in any case to be able to make a new decisions and if it is opposed to any issue, express its opposition by using its veto right. On the other hand, Russians have emphasized that they are opposed to any kind of sanctions being adopted against countries through the Security Council mechanism in order to prevent a similar resolution being adopted against them in the case of, for example, the Crimean Peninsula. I want to reach the conclusion that adopting a resolution to terminate previous resolution of the UN Security Council will need more time. This is true both because the Security Council resolutions are not simply related to Iran's nuclear case, but also touch upon other issues as Iran's missile and space technologies. Another reason is that the positions of Russia and China should be taken into account when adopting such a resolution.

6. To make a long story short, Iran is a country with enough capacities and potential to turn into a developed country on the strength of its skilled human power and natural resources. The process that the country is going through to meet this end requires strenuous efforts and endeavors by people from all walks of life. We have apparently been offered with an opportunity to work more.

Key Words: Iran, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Lausanne Statement, European Union, US Congress, United Nations, Sanctions, Maleki

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*Photo Credit: Trend

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