US Breach of Promises Weakens Moderation in Iran’s Nuclear Policy

Friday, August 5, 2016

Hossein Kebriaeezadeh
Expert on Middle East Issues

Three years have passed since Iran’s moderate president came to office. After winning presidential election in 2013, Hassan Rouhani made the most important changes in the fields of the country’s foreign policy, especially with regard to Iran’s nuclear case. In a short period of time as compared to 12 years in which the nuclear case was in limbo, he managed to put this case in order in the hope that following a nuclear agreement with world powers, Iran’s relations with the rest of the world would be facilitated.

The new Iranian president took advantage of such seasoned diplomats as his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and introduced constructive interaction with the world as the central signifier of his moderate discourse in order to make possible practical introduction of such concepts as peaceful coexistence, mutual respect, confidence building, détente and so forth.

In this way, Iran’s nuclear policy took a new approach and managed to achieve its goal of clinching an agreement with the P5+1 group of countries. However, from the viewpoint of Tehran, the nuclear deal was not simply aimed at putting an end to the nuclear standoff, but was a tool through which the Iranian administration sought to boost people’s welfare state. As put by President Rouhani, they wanted to improve people’s livelihood while helping the country’s nuclear technology thrive.

However, one year after the conclusion of Iran’s nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the situation has not fared as Rouhani’s administration had projected and the economic improvement sought by Iran’s moderate administration has not been realized for certain reasons. Part of this problem is related to Iran’s economic infrastructure and mismanagement of the Iranian society’s expectations from the JCPOA. However, the behavior of the United States in the post-JCPOA period has been also an important reason why the JCPOA has not improved people’s livelihood or its impact has been minimal. For example, the United States has been obstructing any improvement in Iran’s foreign trade and blocking any economic advantage that the Islamic Republic could have derived from the post-JCPOA conditions, thus, practically proving that containing Iran is still more important to the United States than implementation of the JCPOA.

Despite the fact that the main basis for the implementation of the JCPOA has been joint action combined with goodwill of all involved parties in order to maintain the constructive atmosphere created by the JCPOA, the behavior of the US government in keeping sanctions in place and steps it has taken to scuttle Iran’s economy are at odds with the letter and spirit of the nuclear agreement. This issue can be also viewed from the standpoint of the rights of treaties, which cannot be discussed here, but in practice, it has reinvigorated the theory that the United States is the enemy of the Iranian nation, elites and citizens. This theory was in decline following the conclusion of the JCPOA, but now it has returned to the Iranian society with more force and intensity. The present conditions have been achieved through multilateral and complicated negotiations and have been also endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, but even these conditions have failed to make one of the main parties behind the JCPOA, that is the United States, to abide by the agreement.

As a result of these conditions and on the first anniversary of the JCPOA, senior Iranian officials, who believe in negotiations and diplomacy, including President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, have indicated their consternation at the performance of the international community led by the United States through both statements and online tweets. The clear warning Iran has given to the West about rapid return to pre-JCPOA conditions if the United States continues to breach its promises, shows that the understanding of Iran’s moderate decision-makers of the nuclear case has undergone tangible change. Perhaps, if nuclear negotiations had been held under these conditions, the legal document that would have come out of them would be legally more precise compared to the current text of the JCPOA both in terms of incentives and deterrence.

On the whole, it is clear that due to breach of promises by other parties to the nuclear deal about removal of sanctions against Iran, and as a result of the absence of tangible economic improvement in Iran following the nuclear deal, not only the understanding of Iran’s moderate politicians, who are under pressure from public opinion, is changing, but also the mentality of the society, which sees no economic improvement, about taking a moderate approach to the West. This trend, in addition to the changing role of Iranian institutions as a result of the link between removal of nuclear sanctions and the country’s defense policies and human rights issues, can have untoward effect on promotion of constructive interaction between Tehran and the rest of the international community and may cause all the achievements of lengthy and complicated negotiations between six world powers and Iran to finally fall apart.

Key WordsUS, Breach, Promises, Moderation, Iran, Nuclear Policy, Hassan Rouhani, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Economic Infrastructure, Expectations, Post-JCPOA Period, Implementation, United Nations Security Council, Sanctions, Constructive Interaction, Kebriaeezadeh

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