Iran nuclear talks: Which scenario is optimal for Tehran?

It has become clear that through its recent response to the European proposal and the American response that followed, Tehran wanted to prolong the negotiations, especially since some figures close to the decision-making references believe that waiting for a period of no less than two months to await the arrival of cold waves that will exacerbate the energy crisis and raise prices Fuel again in the West, will undoubtedly give Iran a trump card at the negotiating table that makes the agreement more in line with Iranian interests.


Amid the acceleration of geostrategic shifts in the region, the European mediator entered the nuclear negotiations line with the aim of reducing tension between Tehran and Washington, but the latest Iranian response did not meet his ambitions. The European troika questioned Tehran’s intentions to return to the nuclear agreement, and this is not the first time that European parties have expressed their disappointment with the lack of a result, but the only difference this time is that time is running out for them due to the repercussions of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the aggravation of the global energy crisis. . This paper aims to foresee the future of nuclear negotiations and examines possible scenarios.

The views of the US administration and the statement of the European tripartite, represented by France, Britain and Germany, on the recent Iranian response reveal the difficulty in overcoming the remaining differences, albeit few. Iran has openly declared that it will not give up one iota of its red lines regarding its nuclear program; Moreover, it is well aware that prolonging the negotiations may lead it to confront the Western countries and aggravate the situation more than before. Which may make its nuclear file vulnerable to deliberation in the corridors of the General Assembly of the United Nations, which Iran sees as, of course, biased towards Western policies. It is possible that the upcoming meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors will coincide with the meetings of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the proceedings of which will be attended by the Iranian President, Ibrahim Raisi, where he will deliver his country’s annual speech.

It is likely that the Agency’s Board of Governors, if the file is not closed, will issue a resolution against Iran, which will force it to raise uranium enrichment in its nuclear facilities to seventy percent or more in response to the agency’s decision.

Before talking about the most prominent possible scenarios regarding the chances of reaching an agreement, we will touch on some spots of pessimism that may prevent the revival of the nuclear agreement.

hotbed of pessimism

The withdrawal of former US President Donald Trump from the nuclear agreement in 2018, exacerbated the crisis of confidence between Iran and the United States; This made Tehran demand more guarantees to prevent a repeat of the US withdrawal again. Add to this her lack of confidence in the ability of the current US administration to abide by the terms of any new agreement. Even if the Democrats win the midterm elections for the US Congress, scheduled for November 2022, and confirm the Biden administration’s ability, the current proposals in the exchanged drafts do not encourage Iran to sign a new agreement after it achieved a major leap in foreign trade with neighboring countries (1) . What complicates the conditions internally is the belief of many fundamentalist ideologues that Iran’s exit from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ( NPT) and the increase in its enrichment rate will provide Tehran with a deterrent force that guarantees national security and provides advanced negotiating conditions (2). There is also an Iranian concern that the agreement will be a means to prevent Tehran from possessing an effective deterrent force in exchange for a free hand for Israel to enhance its military superiority and deterrence power in the region .

There is another pessimistic focus for the European Union, which cannot guarantee that the US sanctions will not catch up with the Iranian companies that will deal with it in the event that Washington exits the agreement. This eliminates the main objective based on foreign companies investing in Iran; Which urges Tehran to demand an agreement backed by a tight text that includes reassuring guarantees in the event the US side withdraws from it again.

The Iranians do not overlook the destructive influence of Israel and its relentless attempts to sabotage the agreement. Israel had previously played this disruptive role in 2014, when the agreement was ready to be signed, and former US Secretary of State John Kerry delayed it for a year in response to Israeli pressures.

These are some hotbeds of pessimism that could return the negotiations to square one. We must also take into account the fundamentalists’ emphasis that a bad agreement is worse than no agreement, contrary to what former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had stated that any agreement is better than no (3) .

Indicators of the success of the agreement

Just as the indicators of escalation that could lead to the failure of the Vienna negotiations exacerbated, other indicators appeared on the horizon that suggest the success of the agreement, the most important of which is the consensus of decision-makers in Iran, including fundamentalists and reformists, that returning to the agreement will lead the country out of its economic crisis and enhance social security, which is a mainstay for the continuation of the agreement. The regime contributes to dispelling security and military threats and threats against the regime, and lays the foundations for Iran’s internal and regional security. On the American side, the Biden administration needs the agreement paper for electoral motives in order to tell the Americans that it has been able, by reviving the nuclear agreement, to control energy prices, and most importantly, to contain Iran and prevent it from acquiring a nuclear bomb.

As for the other indicator of success, it is represented in solving many of the contracts and removing a large part of the technical obstacles through negotiations, which makes us optimistic about the negotiators’ ability to remove the rest of them, especially since the failure of the negotiations will enter the region into a dark tunnel and bring many scourges on the world. Confronting Iran militarily will be costly to the West, and failure to reach an agreement will push the Iranians to escalate by raising the enrichment rate, which opens the door to a nuclear race in the region that contradicts the American approach aimed at Israel’s superiority in the region with its nuclear arsenal.

The difference between the 2015 agreement and the upcoming agreement

The revival of the nuclear agreement is based on two principles: the United States lifts all sanctions related to the agreement, and maintains sanctions related to human rights and terrorism, especially those issued by Congress, in exchange for Tehran’s return to full compliance with its nuclear pledges to stop enrichment at levels not exceeding twenty percent and stop The production of advanced centrifuges, with some amendments to the previous agreement, enables Iran to keep the advanced centrifuges it manufactured during the past two years and store them inside its territory under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, instead of destroying them, as was the case in the previous agreement, which helps Iran Practically, the resumption of enrichment activities at a record speed in the event of the United States withdrawing from the agreement again.

The new understanding stipulates that the implementation period of the agreement will be between 5 and 6 months, starting in practice with a meeting of the joint committee of the nuclear agreement (France, Britain, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran) at the level of political directors, excluding the United States, during which the text of the new agreement will be approved and an invitation to meet the foreign ministers of the member states of the nuclear deal. The committee, after which the Iranian and American sides will start taking steps for the simultaneous and gradual implementation of their commitments under the new agreement within a period of 5 or 6 months, after which the United States will officially return to the agreement and regain its membership in the joint committee (4) .

Iranian conditions and goals

One of the most important conditions set by Tehran to enter into any joint agreement is to close the file of the International Atomic Energy Agency, especially the investigations conducted by the agency about the presence of traces of highly enriched uranium at three Iranian sites. In order to test the extent of the seriousness of the influential West in the agency to cross this obstacle and start a new phase called direct dialogue. As Iranian officials, including the former Secretary-General of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, have stated that Tehran does not refuse a direct meeting with the Americans, similar to the experience of 2015 in order to revive the nuclear agreement and provide $400 million to Iran under the name of releasing American prisoners.

 At the present time, the Iranians reject direct meeting with the Americans, but they do not reject it completely and permanently. Rather, they restricted it to conditions, the most important of which is that it be based on clear foundations that lead to achieving gains and generous offers for Tehran, which the United States may not be able to offer to the Iranian party in multilateral meetings. Taking into account its European allies and partners in the region, in addition to providing satisfactory guarantees to Tehran confirming that it will not withdraw from the upcoming nuclear agreement.

The best scenario for Iran

There are several scenarios being proposed at the present time to revive the nuclear agreement, which has become the subject of consensus among the fundamentalists and reformists who constitute the two main currents in Iran, and their dispute over the agreement has become limited to the date of its signing. Which makes us put aside the possibility of not signing the agreement.

It has become clear that, through its recent response to the European proposal and the American response that followed, Tehran wanted to prolong the negotiations, especially since some figures close to the decision-making references believe that waiting for a period of no less than two months to await the arrival of cold waves that will exacerbate the energy crisis and raise The return of fuel prices in the West will undoubtedly give Iran a trump card at the negotiating table that will make the agreement more in line with Iranian interests (5) . Perhaps, through this deliberation, Tehran aims to make the most of the time factor, whose supporters have multiplied in the corridors of Iranian politics recently, with the aim of increasing the rate of uranium enrichment to put pressure on the United States and the West, especially as the effect of sanctions has begun to decline, according to the Iranian government’s opinion.

Expected scenario

The statement of the three European countries members of the 4+1 group in charge of negotiating with Iran to revive the nuclear agreement, on the evening of Saturday the tenth of September 2022 (6) , which accused Iran of not taking advantage of the political opportunity to revive the nuclear agreement and blamed it for not reaching an agreement so far, and added The statement also “Unfortunately, Iran chose not to take advantage of the diplomatic and vital opportunity of negotiations, but to the contrary continues to escalate the status of its nuclear program in a way that goes beyond any understandable civilian justification. As we approached an agreement, Iran reopened separate issues related to the country’s treaty obligations Non-proliferation and safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The above made Iranian circles believe that the American side is still reluctant to take the final decision, while Tehran is publicly declaring its conditions for reviving the agreement. Which is likely to postpone the negotiations until after the midterm elections of the US Congress, in light of Iran’s serious focus on closing its security file with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which prompted the US administration to postpone the negotiations until after the eighth of November 2022 due to the imminent date of the congressional elections. There is a belief among the Iranian center that the postponement of the negotiations will not have an impact on the meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which may be satisfied with a statement criticizing Iran’s actions.

a summary

The course of the indirect nuclear negotiations between Tehran and the United States, through the European mediator, aims primarily to reduce tension and bridge views between Tehran and Washington, rather than focusing on technical issues related to the Iranian nuclear program. In addition to the attempt of influential currents in the two countries to build a calm path for regional interaction between the two parties in parallel with the Vienna process. The impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war and regional interactions on Iran and the United States’ view of the content of the nuclear talks cannot be denied. While it is possible to see great positivity in the Iranian circles concerned about the possibility of reaching an agreement, there is a difference between the concerned Iranian parties on the shape of the new agreement, and the economic benefits that Iran will derive from it. If it is not worth the sacrifices offered by Tehran, then the nuclear agreement is empty-handed for Iran, and not worth the trouble. Will foreign companies be able to invest in Tehran with the constant threat of a US withdrawal soon after? It was therefore logical for the Iranians to ask for a guarantee that a suitable time limit would be devoted to the survival of foreign investments.

In light of the opposition and supportive positions of the agreement and the internal facts in Iran, it can be concluded that there is a state of consensus within the Iranian constitutional institutions concerned with strategic decisions, especially those related to the nuclear file, about the necessity of the option of reaching an agreement with the group of international powers represented by the nuclear agreement committee, because the agreement achieves the interests of The regime internally by lifting sanctions, supporting the national economy, and enhancing national security. As for the regional level, it will put Iran as a major and pivotal power in the West Asia region and enhance its regional role, provided that more positive negotiating conditions are obtained during the coming period.

About the author

Mojtaba Haidari

Researcher specializing in Iranian affairs.REFERENCE

  1.   The Iranian government, headed by Ibrahim Raisi, managed during the past year to achieve a great leap in foreign trade with neighboring countries, according to the latest statistics published by Iranian customs, which stated that in the past five months of this year, more than 33 million and 333,000 tons of goods were exchanged with a value of $20 billion and 636 million between Iran and 15 neighboring countries, and this trade has also seen a growth of 24% compared to the same period last year, “Watan Emrouz” Iranian newspaper, Shahrivar 1401, September 7, 2022, (entry date: September 11 / September 2022):   https://bit.ly/3LvFPqh
  2.   Mohamed Imani, The Future of Negotiations; A Few Feet Ahead, Iranian “Kayhan” newspaper, 30 Mordad 1401, (accessed September 8, 2022): https://bit.ly/3qD39IO
  3. Mohammad Javad Zarif: What kind of agreement is better than no agreement, “Iran Diplomacy” website, 27 Shahrior 1393, (access date: September 3, 2022): https://bit.ly/2YpP0mN
  4.  What did Ali Bagheri Kani say during his informal meeting with journalists?, Iranian newspaper, Khabar Online, 22 Shahryor 1401, (access date: September 7, 2022): https://bit.ly/3qKVJDe
  5. Mustafa Khosh Jashem, International Affairs Expert: The Americans know that they do not have enough opportunity in the fall to reach an agreement, Iran’s Fars News Agency, Khordad 1401 AM, (entry date: September 7, 2022):   https://bit.ly/ 3S8Yn1E
  6. France, Britain and Germany announce their position on Iran’s responses regarding its nuclear file, and Tehran is suspended, Al Jazeera Net, September 10, 2022, (date of entry: September 11, 2022):
  7.   https://bit.ly/3BFN3V4
SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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