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Clues and denials in the Iran nuclear saga

The U.S.'s search for common ground with Iran stems from Washington's desire to prioritize international conflicts at the forefront of its agenda.

World powers and Iran in Vienna for talks discussing the Iran nuclear deal, November 2021. Source: E.U. delegation in Vienna/Twitter.
World powers and Iran in Vienna for talks discussing the Iran nuclear deal, November 2021. Source: E.U. delegation in Vienna/Twitter.
Salem al-Ketbi.
Salem al-Ketbi
Salem al-Ketbi is an Emirati political analyst and a former candidate to the UAE’s Federal National Council.

Recent reports on the revival of the Iranian nuclear deal have sparked renewed attention, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken refutes claims of an imminent agreement between Washington and Tehran.

Concerns arose following Iran’s declaration of engaging in indirect talks with the U.S., facilitated by the Sultanate of Oman. The negotiations encompass critical matters such as nuclear concerns, U.S. sanctions and the fate of American citizens detained in Iran.

Recent developments indicate ongoing covert efforts to solidify an agreement between Washington and Tehran, evoking memories of former President Barack Obama’s administration, which unexpectedly brokered the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015, just a year before the fiercely contested U.S. presidential elections resulting in Donald Trump’s victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

President Joe Biden’s administration seems determined to achieve a significant breakthrough in this matter before the upcoming 2024 presidential elections, aiming to present it as a noteworthy foreign policy accomplishment to the American public. The stakes are high, as the negotiations not only involve the nuclear issue but also hold the key to securing the release of four detained Americans in Iran, regarded as a top priority by the current administration.

The possibility of direct or indirect dialogue between Tehran and Washington cannot be dismissed, especially as the U.S. repeatedly emphasizes its commitment to employing diplomatic means to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. This commitment entails a continued exploration of political avenues to address the issue, particularly following confirmation by U.S. authorities that the Iranian regime successfully suppressed domestic protests that took place last year.

The escalating concern over potential Israeli involvement in a conflict with Iran further fuels American determination to find a resolution to the impasse surrounding the Iranian nuclear deal. Washington aims to secure leverage by considering preemptive strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, a notion occasionally hinted at by the Netanyahu government.

Despite the Israeli government saying it is “unconcerned” by any potential agreement regarding the revival of the Iranian nuclear deal, the U.S. views these statements as more of a political strategy than a genuine stance. Israel, a valued ally, understands the necessity of obtaining American approval before launching any military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Repeated statements from the U.S. confirm ongoing communication with Israel, keeping them updated on discussions and dialogues related to the Iranian nuclear issue, highlighting the close coordination between the two sides.

Signs of quiet progress in confidence-building measures between Tehran and Washington are emerging, with a notable indication being the U.S.’s approval for the transfer of approximately $7 billion from Iraq to Iran, described by the U.S. State Department as a routine procedure, raises eyebrows. Typically, such transactions require prior U.S. approval and demonstrate America’s inclination to foster a favorable atmosphere for successful dialogue with Iran.

This signal is not unprecedented, as American silence regarding Iran’s repeated violations in the Gulf can be seen as a recurring indication of a desire to avoid confrontation, even at the risk of strained relationships with regional allies.

One of the driving forces behind the U.S.’s search for common ground with Iran, regardless of other considerations, stems from Washington’s aim to prioritize international conflicts at the forefront of its agenda—in particular, the ongoing conflict with Russia in Ukraine and the intense competition with China, two intertwined issues.

The U.S. currently avoids getting entangled in Middle East affairs, opting instead to assert its presence through verbal affirmations. The primary objective is to hinder Iran’s progress in obtaining larger quantities of enriched uranium needed for a nuclear weapon. The approach taken, be it through an agreement, understandings or alternative official frameworks, aims to persuade Iran to withdraw support for Russia in the Ukraine conflict. While achieving this goal appears challenging, a win-win equation can be pursued, involving the lifting of sanctions and the gradual release of Iran’s financial assets in exchange for compliance with American demands.

The U.S. administration aims to sidestep discussions regarding a potential deal with Iran in order to evade presenting the matter to Congress for review. This move prompted Michael McCaul, a Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to formally demand that Biden submit any arrangement or understanding with Iran to Congress, even if it is informal. The White House may choose to ignore this demand, even if a vote takes place within the Democrat-controlled Congress.

Any agreements reached between the U.S. and Iran could have significant repercussions for the region, with Israel potentially being the most affected. This concern arises as Gulf Cooperation Council countries have taken preemptive measures to deescalate tensions with Iran and resume relations in response to potential American actions.

The current regional geopolitical situation, marked by Iran’s presence in Syria, its ongoing missile development and the unresolved issue of Lebanese Hezbollah arms pointed at Israel, sustains Israel’s perception of threats coming from Iran.

To alleviate these concerns, any potential U.S.-Iran agreement must incorporate precise and specific measures that guarantee the reduction of tensions between Israel and Iran. This includes establishing controls at direct contact points along Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon, as well as Tehran ceasing support for extremist organizations targeting Israel’s security and stability.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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