By Fares Braizat, May 08,2022

Despite the grim possibility of a breakdown in Vienna talks over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran nuclear deal, some diplomats close to it express very cautious optimism about a breakthrough. 

But, the optimism needs more work and commitments from the US and Iran. The thorny issues blocking the deal are political and still unresolved, and require political, rather than technical, decisions mainly from Washington and Tehran. Neither of these capitals seems ready to make these decisions yet, for a long list of reasons.

The political dimension was complicated even more by the Russian-Ukrainian war, since Russia used to play a significant mediating role between American and Iranian diplomats during the tense negotiation process. Given the current state of play, it is doubtful that the Americans and the Russians would trust each other with any move on the JCPOA or other security arrangements in the region.

Washington demands a change in the Iranian regime’s behavior. It is a demand made very frequently by US allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel. The 2015 version of the deal failed to change Iran’s behavior; it succeeded in delaying, but not in preventing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The result was an emboldened, aggressive, and more assertive Iran.

Since 2003, Iran has entered Iraqi politics and has shaped it largely as it wishes.

Tehran’s most important political demand is delisting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from its current State Department designation as a terrorist group. Washington cannot accept this demand unless IRGC scales back its proxy wars around the region and beyond.

It is a very delicate balance to strike between sharply competing interests in the region, especially when adding Russian and Chinese interests. and the aspirations of rising regional powers to the mix.

As the US focuses its efforts more on great powers competition in the Indo-Pacific region and Europe, the role of local allies in securing the region’s stability becomes more relevant and imperative. Therefore, regional actors cannot be left out of JCPOA negotiations and the security structure that may result out of it, as they are the ones that will have to put up with its consequences.

To start with, and due to Iran’s behavior, they have very modest levels of trust in Iran’s leadership and intentions. The fifth round of Saudi-Iranian negotiations in Baghdad saw some security and intelligence progress (read exploration of confidence building measures), but not much diplomatic and political peace building yet. This Baghdad track does not include and is not officially representative of other actors whose interests are somewhat aligned with those of Saudi Arabia but are not addressed. 

Can such a track be a way for other actors to follow? And is it a good idea to pursue bilateral, instead of multilateral, tracks to settle thorny issues with Iran?   

For the region, a successful conclusion of JCPOA is one that addresses regional security with: clarity from the US on the type of security commitment to its traditional allies in the region; prevention of a nuclear arms race in the region; a regional security alliance that includes Iran as well as Israel. 

If those basics are not addressed, as difficult as it may be, the alternative could be a region-led and constructed security alliance that would push Arab countries toward Iran or Israel or Turkey. These options have their risks and opportunities, but they will not work without serious American clarity and involvement. 

The writer is the Chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E. Dr. Fares Braizat. 

This article was originally published in Jordan News on May 08, 2022. For the original article source, click here