All indications are that the Iran nuclear deal entered a state of clinical death not too long ago. Its revival is unlikely, both because of continuing disagreements on certain points and because of the strained relations between Tehran and Western capitals over accusations of Iran’s support for growing popular protests in the country.
The recent tensions between Iran and the West are the straw that broke the camel’s back on the revival of the Iranian nuclear dossier. But it is a lifeline or way out that suits both sides to put the agreement on the back burner without taking responsibility for failing to revive it.
Before the recent protests, both sides, Iran and the US, were expected to exchange accusations of responsibility for the failure of efforts to revive the nuclear deal. European mediation also bears an important part of the responsibility for the failure of the agreement, despite the alternatives, solutions and intensive efforts it has brought.
The protests were only an implicit cover that could be pointed to in seeking justification for the failure of efforts to revive the nuclear deal. But that was not the only factor that led to the freezing of negotiations. There is also Iranian support for Russia with drones used to carry out intensive military strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure.
This support has angered Western countries, which until the last minute were betting on lifting sanctions on Iranian oil so that energy prices could calm down.
The failure of European bets precisely on the use of Iranian energy resources, gas and oil, to partially compensate for the lack of Russian supplies to Europe or to appease world markets in general, has led to a major qualitative shift in European attitudes toward Iran.
French President Emmanuel Macron recently emphasized that it is very difficult for the West to make progress in the negotiations on the nuclear deal in the face of ongoing demonstrations in Iran and mass arrests of protesters, which diverges from the French-European approach, which until a few weeks ago maintained a separation between the nuclear file and the issue of human rights in Iran.
But Iran’s involvement in the Russia-Ukraine war was the last straw for the West, prompting the Atlantic capitals to almost implicitly acknowledge the failure of negotiations to revive the nuclear deal and to rush in the exact opposite direction.
It should be noted here that the French president recently used the notion of revolution for the first time in the West to express what is happening in Iran: “Something unprecedented is happening. The little children of the Islamic revolution are eating it up by making their own revolution.”
In the same statements, Macron did not publicly acknowledge the fading hope for negotiations on the nuclear agreement in order not to hold the West responsible for the failure, especially since he is well aware of the degree of Iranian anger over what is described as Western support for the protests, so the difficulty for Tehran to return to the negotiating table in the foreseeable future.
He has tried to hold a middle ground, saying that he intends to continue dialogue with Tehran and push for a regional meeting by the end of the year in hopes of creating a broader framework for nuclear negotiations. At the same time, however, he said that the IRGC would be considered for inclusion on the terrorist list as the protests unfolded.
As for the nuclear issue, he said that these protests “change a lot of things,” and that he does not think there will be new proposals. Europe insists on supporting the protests until the Iranian regime is overthrown or at least weakened. Even if the protesters fail to do so, no new proposals can be made for the resumption of the agreement, making indirect recognition of the negotiation stalemate.
France plays a vital role in almost all negotiations between Washington and Tehran aimed at reviving the nuclear agreement. But France is also at the forefront of European efforts to impose sanctions against Tehran over the “brutal crackdown” on Iranian popular protests.
Relations between Tehran and Paris have become even more strained over Iranian accusations of the arrest of French intelligence officers among the Iranian protesters. Much of the Western anger over the Iranian regime is more likely related to Iran’s involvement in the Ukrainian war than to the drones for Russia.
Iran’s behavior has destroyed the remnants of the West’s reluctance to deal with Iranian hard line in the nuclear deal negotiations, which were effectively derailed by the outbreak of Iranian popular protests.
It is likely that Iranian-Western relations have entered a tunnel of growing tension recently and will remain so for an unknown period, given the rapid changes in international relations, unless Tehran retreats from escalating its political rhetoric against the West, or European capitals make behind-the-scenes efforts to cool the crisis and calm the atmosphere in seeking a solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis.
The author is an UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate. He can he found on twitter at @salemalketbieng