The Iran Nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed in 2015 by Iran, the European Union (EU), and P5+ 1 countries that include France, China, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, and the United States (US).

The purpose of the deal was to limit Iran’s nuclear escalation in exchange for debt relief. The deal was adopted under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 on 20 July 2015.

The JCPOA is conditioned to impose restrictions on Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program. Under the deal, Iran agreed to stop producing the highly enriched plutonium and uranium that could be used for nuclear weapon production.

It also agreed to dismantle most of its nuclear program for sanctions relief worth billions of dollars.

Iran agreed to implement a protocol that would allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to check the country’s nuclear facilities.

The parties to the deal agreed to lift a current UN embargo on Iran transferring conventional weapons and ballistic missiles in five years if the IAEA confirms that Iran is fulfilling the terms of the deal.

The deal hasn’t progressed since the US withdrew from it in 2018. The revival efforts have been initiated by JCPOA signatories, but progress is not very fruitful.

If any signatory believes Iran is breaking the terms of the agreement, the UN Security Council will decide whether to keep lifting the sanctions or not.

According to the 2016 report, the IAEA certified that Iran met its initial pledges of the deal, and the Obama administration in the US, the UN, and the European Union responded by lifting financial and oil sanctions.

The deal has been in danger since the US withdrew from it in 2018 under President Donald Trump’s administration and the US imposed the sanctions. The United States declared its plan to reimpose sanctions in April 2020.

The other P5 countries did not support this action, stating that since the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement in 2018, the US couldn’t implement sanctions single-handedly.

In response to these actions, in 2019, Iran started expanding uranium production. It began to develop centrifuges to increase uranium enrichment at Fordow and its Arak Facility.

After the death of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in 2020, Iran claimed it would not limit its uranium enrichment.

In response to the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (A prominent Iranian nuclear scientist), the Parliament of Iran passed a law that allowed the increase in uranium enrichment at Fordow.

The Iranian Republic further imposed restrictions on the IAEA’s protocol for inspecting its nuclear facilities and ended its monitoring deal with the IAEA completely.

JCPOA signatories in 2021 initiated talks between Washington and Tehran to get them back into the agreement. Still, the situation instead got complicated due to President Raisi’s election, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Moreover, in June 2022, the US and Iran held indirect talks in the presence of the EU envoy Enrique Mora, regarding the revival of the Iran Nuclear deal, but no progress was made.

At the start of October this year, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kanani, said, “There is still a possibility and a chance to resume the implementation of the nuclear deal.”

He added, “If the other side, particularly the US government, shows political will, it is possible that a deal will be concluded in a short period.”

But on the other hand, Iran has been supplying nuclear weapons to Russia for Ukraine’s invasion as the “Shahed-136” (Iranian-made weapons) were used in recent attacks in Kyiv.

It doesn’t seem possible that after this, the US would negotiate for the revival of the deal or a new JCPOA. It is reflected through Jean-Pierre, the US President’s Spokesperson’s recent statement.  She, on Monday, said, “We don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon.”

Impact of US Withdrawal on Iran

Iran has one of the most strategically important locations in the Middle East. In geopolitical discourse, the Persian Gulf is generally an essential geostrategic location in the Region.

In core strategic terms, the Persian Gulf and its surrounding coastal areas provide the largest petroleum resources all over the world, therefore, having the potential to push varied asymmetric shifts in the course of international political dynamics.

Since the US unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA agreement in 2018, Iran has suffered economically and politically. But that gave Iran a new prism to look into World politics: Regionalism.

A vision of self-sufficiency by establishing a resistance economy maximizes Iran’s internal capabilities. Iran’s Foreign Policy has thus been to achieve regional sufficiency and emerge as a regional power.

Iran’s inclusion in the SCO is a breakthrough for the country. It will likely open new avenues for trade and cooperation with neighboring states that, in return, help Iran to solve its economic challenges, opening the gate to multilateralism.

Its strategy is to push against the isolation policies and essentially focuses on developing close regional dependencies, and SCO provides it with that platform.

It is establishing commercial and energy-based, with its eastern neighbors via the Iran-Russia-India corridor, without forgetting the ties in this area which are increasingly linking Iran with China.

Iran has also established a wide-ranging and close relationship with China over the past few decades, with a focus on China’s energy requirements and Iran’s resources, considerable non-energy economic links, arms sales, defense cooperation, and geostrategic balancing with the United States.

With many sanctions crippling the country’s economy, Iran has never hesitated to project its military capabilities onto the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia in general and to all those skeptical of Iranian military might.

The withdrawal from the JCPOA didn’t diminish the Iranian nuclear threat; it magnified it. The greatest adversary of Iran, Israel, on the other hand, has rejected the talks because they think the agreement will end the nuclear enrichment sanctions, allowing them to retain any uranium enrichment program dangerous for the region.

Therefore, Israel urged President Biden’s administration to walk away from negotiations which started in early August with Iran for restoring the nuclear deal, as the US and Iran exchanged proposals to address the remaining gaps in a draft agreement.

They pointed out that the agreement allowed Iran to move forward, working to develop its nuclear capability. While it limited Iran’s immediate ability to enrich sufficient uranium for a nuclear bomb, rather than dismantling Iran’s nuclear infrastructure altogether.

Future Prospects

Iran had previously promised not to develop nuclear programs in 1970 by signing the Treaty of Nuclear Non-Proliferation. Still, in 1979 after the end of the Pahlavi regime, leaders in Iran secretly pursued nuclear technology.

Iran seems to believe it can defend its security, economic, and diplomatic interests without the sanction relief that a revived JCPOA might offer, even though it insists that the talks can still be saved.

For decades now, Tehran has remained committed to a policy of no normalization and no confrontation with Washington, which is based on the understanding that Iran’s normalization of relations with the United States will transform the power structure in Iran.

This is the Plan B of Iran’s government which is called an expanded resistance strategy. Which is to be engaged with the Arab World, projecting a proactive preference for regional diplomacy

While the US doesn’t seem to have any plan B yet if the talks on renewing the JCPOA agreement fail.

Despite many pressures, the Biden Administration is facing from Israel, Congress, and pro-Israel lobbyists in support of US coercive strategy vis-à-vis Iran, the US is likely to continue dialogue with Iran to achieve the goal because first, a failed JCPOA agreement means the emergence of a nuclear Iran in the heart of the middle east.

A nuclear Iran will create a Domino effect in the region where Iran’s advisories will start walking on the same road of becoming independent nuclear nations.

Anti-Iran Nuclear Declaration

For the same reason, President Biden, and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, signed a joint Anti Iran nuclear declaration in July 2022.

It declares that the two countries are “to use all elements of its national power” to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

With Israel being the greatest critic of the Iran Nuclear deal and the US being its greatest ally, the Biden administration still believes and prefers to exchange dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The US doesn’t want to destabilize Iran with its bombardments because, on the one hand, there is Iraq. While on the other is Afghanistan – the two already politically crippled regions.

If Iran stepped into the same fate, America would completely lose its control, keeping in the number of proxy wars that would likely erupt in the Middle East, that too an anti-American power-seeking group, thus conflagrating the whole region.

Second, the growing Chinese influence in West Asia threatens the US hegemony in the region. A failed revival of Iran into the world market means Iran-China-Russia increased strategic alliance in the region. The presence of China and Russia in the region challenges American hegemony in the Persian Gulf.

The US can’t afford a deal short of diplomacy and pave any way for China which aspires to improve the projection of military force, leverage political influence with its key suppliers, and secure its Middle Eastern energy sources.

The JCPOA is a breakthrough in Middle Eastern politics. It did bring Tehran to not just the negotiating table, but beyond.

It kept the nuclear question on the front burner, prioritizing international security over regional. But Iran’s Foreign policy is influenced by many factors such as its place in the power hierarchy, changes in the international order, and most notably, the Ukraine War.

Before the Russia-Ukraine War, Iran was more in favor of economic independence, but since the war erupted, the domestic polity’s discourse significantly changed to economic Independence and Nuclear Deterrence.

So there appears to be no motive for Iran to rush to reach a settlement with the West without having its objectives accepted.