The situation around the JCPOA nuclear agreement resembles the following joke: "She wanted to get married only in a white dress, while he did not want to get married at all." The US and Europe are already talking about the new nuclear deal option almost as a reality, while Iran has firmly stated that revising the JCPOA is impossible.
The inauguration of US President Joe Biden leaves no hope for the best. The new American president has promised to return to the nuclear deal, while issuing an ultimatum as regards the future return. Back in December 2020, he said in an interview with CNN that he would seek changes to the JCPOA that should precede the United States' comeback. We are talking about the introduction of points on limiting Iran's missile program and Tehran's influence on the Middle Eastern countries. "Along with our allies, we will work to strengthen and expand the nuclear deal provisions, as well as to address other issues of concern," the future American president stunned everyone with his position's similarity to the predecessor.
But Iran won't jump at the same bait again. Tehran has already said that only a real lifting of sanctions will indicate Washington's return to the nuclear deal, implying all the sanctions Trump has been imposed against Iran after withdrawing from the JCPOA in May 2018.
Anti-Iranian sanctions came thick and fast all the way to Donald Trump's last days in the White House. On Friday, the outgoing Washington administration imposed extra sanctions on a number of Iranian steel companies and their executives, as well as on the largest Iranian shipping company, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL). Among those sanctioned are Iran's Shipbuilding & Offshore Industries Complex and the Aviation Industries Organization that are closely associated with the military-industrial complex. The new bans are more of a farewell show and intended to make it harder for Biden to get back into the deal if he really wants to.
Noting that US sanctions against Iran "virtually represent a full-scale war in which the economy has replaced weapons," Iran's Permanent Representative to the UN Majid Takht-Ravanchi, stressed the following: "Over the past four years, the United States has imposed 1,500 sanctions against Iran, which have affected entire sectors of the Iranian economy and destroyed all of Iran's JCPOA benefits."
Therefore, the Islamic Republic expects the Biden administration not only to declare a complete cessation of sanctions, but also to compensate for the losses Iran sustained because of the restrictions.
The behavior of European politicians is quite surprising in this situation. Having denounced Trump's withdrawal from the deal and the sanctions imposed, they increasingly echo the incoming Biden administration. Having instrumentalized double standards, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian now also insists that Washington's return to the JCPOA be accompanied by negotiations to limit Iran's missile program and influence throughout the region. In a recent interview with Le Journal du Dimanche, Le Drian pointed to the urgent need for the United States and Iran to return to the JCPOA. It bears reminding that Iran did not withdraw from the JCPOA, but only suspended the discharge of obligations. At the same time, the French Foreign Minister modestly glosses over the fact that European countries that have not officially left the deal haven't fulfilled any of their obligations. And Tehran's resumption of uranium enrichment to 20%, the restoration of the Arak heavy water reactor, and a number of other steps to rehabilitate the peaceful nuclear program forced Le Drian to draw far-reaching conclusions: "Iran – I say this clearly – is in the process of acquiring nuclear weapons capacity."
A similar thought was voiced late last year by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who said Germany favored an alternative, broader nuclear agreement with Iran instead of the existing one, which "is no longer sufficient."
At the same time, Western leaders loath to notice that Iran remains committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), with IAEA inspectors continuing to record the purely peaceful nature of Iranian nuclear activities.
While getting increasingly disillusioned with the West, Iran continues to reduce its JCPOA commitments. Last week, Tehran started producing uranium metal at the fuel plate plant in Isfahan, having notified the IAEA in advance. This type of fuel is intended for a Tehran research reactor. Under the JCPOA, Iran has pledged not to engage in producing uranium metal or conduct research and development in the field of uranium metallurgy until 2030. The European "trio" (Great Britain, Germany and France) issued a joint statement to demand that Iran forget about it, as "the production of metallic uranium may have huge military consequences."
Another country keeping to tell "horror stories" about Iran's nuclear weapons is Israel. Tel Aviv explicitly blackmails Washington: should Biden return to the JCPOA, Israel will hit Iranian nuclear facilities. The other day, Israeli Minister of Settlement Affairs Tzachi Hanegbi said in an interview with the Kan broadcasting corporation that Washington's return to the nuclear deal will mean that the whole world, including the United States, will give Iran the go-ahead to continue with its nuclear weapons program.
The Islamic Republic remembers well Tel Aviv's bombings of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981 and a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, and will never forget the murder of Iranian nuclear physicists by Israeli special services. Therefore, Tehran perceives Tel Aviv's threats as a likely scenario and is aggressively building up its missile strength, while deliberately demonstrating the latest achievements. During the latest maneuvers, missiles launched from a central Iran desert successfully hit practice targets of the simulated enemy in the Persian Gulf waters, where the American and Israeli submarines are not idling their time away. For this very reason Iran will never negotiate its missile potential with anyone, even if it is once again offered prospects of a lump of sugar in the form of lifted sanctions.
What does Iran want after all? Proper equality in international relations. As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani figuratively explained, the Islamic Republic assumes obligations in exchange for obligations, detente in exchange for detente, respect in exchange for respect. If the future leaders of the United States have the will for such an interaction, the process of addressing challenges will prove easy, the head of the Iranian cabinet added.
But the West fails to accept such an equal approach. Having achieved a significant restriction of Iran's nuclear program in 2015, which postponed the hypothetical development of nuclear weapons by Tehran for 15-20 years, the West behaved just like it usually did when seizing colonies – it deceived, intimidated, and made deliberately unachievable promises.
The key purpose of the United States and European countries was not to enhance security and nuclear non-proliferation in the Middle East, but to prevent Iran's development and strengthening as a key state in the system of Russia and China's essential geostrategic and trade relations in Eurasia. The stakes are very high for the US and Western Europe. And so they will do everything to ensure a slowdown in Iran's development and its growing influence in the region. In this regard, the nuclear deal's fate seems unenviable.