Is the future of the nuclear deal with Iran in danger?

Is the future of the nuclear deal with Iran in danger?

Donald Trump’s election as the new President of the United States has put many international deals at risk. Previously agreed multilateral agreements are being revised, and bilateral relations between countries are facing new challenges. Many perceive the approach of the new American president as one of the main factors of instability in international relations.

One of the risks the international community faces is the sustainability of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known also as the Iran nuclear deal.

Concluded between Iran and the P5+1 on July 14, 2015, the deal was never considered to be perfect. Nevertheless, in spite of the much predictable challenges of realizing such an ambitious and technically complex agreement, many agree that it has so far been successfully implemented. Iran is taking certain steps to prove that it is committed to the realization of its obligations as defined in the agreement. P5+1 countries, on the other hand, have started to ease down the economic sanctions regime.

It is no secret that Trump is not happy with the deal - and he has time - and again hinted that he will see for its non-implementation or renegotiation.

The agreement does not have critics only in the U.S. Israel, perceiving Iran as a serious existential threat to its national security, is not in favor of the implementation of this agreement either. Saudi Arabia does not feel any different due to its regional competition with Iran, particularly in the Persian Gulf.

The future of the nuclear deal is criticized in Iran as well. As the final countdown in Iran for the presidential elections to take place in May this year has already started, the future of the JCPOA becomes more important for the international community.

Global Relations Forum (GRF), based in Istanbul, has brought together a group of international experts from Turkey, the U.S., the U.K., China, Russia, France, India, Israel and Iran, and has formed a task force to analyze the developments about the future of the nuclear deal with Iran.

This task force has made a declaration on the JCPOA on March 17, 2017. First and foremost, members of the task force agree that the nuclear agreement with Iran is far from being perfect. Yet, they also underline the fact that there is no chance of securing a better deal under the circumstances.

The GRF declaration also reiterates that it looks highly unlikely that entering a new negotiation process will bring about a different result either. Therefore, there is a risk of having no deal at all if the current one is open for discussion or renegotiation. Such a development could easily lead to miscalculations and a disaster in the Middle East.

Although the challenge to the deal comes mainly from the U.S., it is also true that the issue will become a serious litmus test in the approaching presidential elections in Iran. The agreement is the product of a long and careful diplomatic process conducted under the guidance of President Hassan Rouhani who is believed to run again as a candidate in the forthcoming elections.

Rouhani apparently is considered to be the candidate of a reformist group in Iran. His successful conclusion of the JCPOA has become one of his main assets because the deal has ended the long isolation of Iran from the international community.

Iran’s oil exports have doubled, sanctions have been eased and the country has good prospects for having a sustainable economic recovery. Asked about Donald Trump’s criticism about the agreement, Rouhani said that “the Iran nuclear deal was good for the U.S. but President Trump could not understand it.”

On the other hand, the deal is mainly criticized by the hardliners in Iran who are mainly supported by the Revolutionary Guard and they tend to support Mohammed Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, as a candidate for the presidential elections.

When it comes to domestic politics and the battle for power, Rouhani may discover that his main asset might be reversed as his main liability by his opponents. It is apparent that things may not be easy for Rouhani in the forthcoming elections.

It is encouraging to see civil society organizations putting an effort to look into important international matters and preparing analytical reports with a view to coming forward with concrete proposals.

The declaration of the GRF, in that respect, fills the gap and is very timely, for it calls to all the parties involved to do their best in order to ensure the smooth implementation of the JCPOA. Such a responsible behavior will reassure not only the implementation of the deal but will also guarantee stability in the region as well.