Iran Approaching an Ominous International Impasse

ByAmmar Jello

Many external factors are indicative of an escalation in Iran at the regional and international levels, including Saudi Arabia’s suspension of talks with Iran, Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to heading the Israeli government and the IAEA’s resolution calling on Iran to urgently provide an explanation about the uranium traces found at three undeclared sites.

 JadehIran, an Iranian website, announced that Saudi Arabia had suspended talks with Iran after the two sides had held five rounds of talks in the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad. Before this stagnation of the talks, Iranians were reportedly talking about an imminent meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers as an outcome of these rounds of talks. However, according to Saudi officials’ remarks, the conditions to hold a meeting between the two ministers have not been met yet. The Saudi statements did not indicate any negative aspect of the talks and did not shed any light regarding their future trajectory.

One cannot easily interpret the Saudi position amid the typical ambiguity of such security talks that pave the way to revive their severed relations with Iran. Is the Saudi position due to the newly formed government in Iraq which sponsors the talks or is it because of Iranian statements accusing Saudi Arabia of stirring the ongoing Iranian protests along with other regional and international countries? The latter — Iran’s accusations against Saudi Arabia— is plausible, given the fact that Saudi officials informed their American counterparts of Iran’s intention to attack the kingdom. In conclusion, the Saudi-Iran dialogue is a regional trajectory in line with the international six- party talks in Vienna, and also affected by it. In the context of the aforementioned, there is little prospect of reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.

As the revival of the nuclear deal has reached a deadlock, the West, especially the Europeans, took escalatory steps at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting. The European troika (the UK, France and Germany) and the United States submitted a draft resolution calling on the UN watchdog to instruct Iran to swiftly provide an explanation about the uranium traces found at three undeclared sites. This demand, however, is impossible to meet. The phrasing of the draft resolution indicates the West’s intention to escalate against Iran in the future, particularly through internationalizing the Iranian file by pressuring the IAEA to take action.

It must be remembered that the uranium traces found at the three undeclared Iranian sites date back to 2003, which is more than enough time for anyone to provide a willing and convincing explanation. Nevertheless, the Iranian side has failed to provide an explanation, leaving the door open for the IAEA to condemn Tehran. In spite of Iran’s denials, evidence collected by the IAEA proves that Iran has carried out extensive research and activities to develop a nuclear explosive device. These activities included the work initiated in “the early 1990s at the Physics Research Center at Lavisan-Shian, the so-called AMAD Plan (believed to be the project name for the overall Iranian nuclear weapons program),” according to the Washington Institute.

Returning to the recent draft resolution, former Iranian diplomat and foreign policy expert Fereydoun Majlisi believes that the West (Europe and the United States) lost hope a long time ago in negotiating with Iran, so it worked to pass the draft resolution by a majority of votes. After all, the JCPOA no longer exists; it is now being demolished. Majlisi argues that the “threats against Iran have become more serious” as Iran has been providing Russia with drones. Accordingly, the Western stance against Iran has hardened further. Canada’s prime minister talked about Iran’s internal developments and the possibility of changing the political system in Iran. The French president met with a number of Iranian women human rights activists and the German chancellor and minister of foreign affairs’ openly talked about Iranian threats. Finally, the European Parliament adopted a harsh stance against Iran.

Iran is concerned about the European troika reactivating the UN sanctions through the snapback mechanism associated with Security Council Resolution 2231 of 2015; sanctions are reimposed on Iran once any JCPOA participatory country files a request, after observing an Iranian violation of Resolution 2231. Once the mechanism is reactivated, other participatory countries have no right to veto the reimposition of the sanctions. The European troika may resort in the near future to reactivating the UN sanctions through the snapback mechanism due to the shift in their positions and convergence with Washington’s position on Tehran.

The regional landscape is somewhat worrying for Iran with Netanyahu returning to the Israeli presidency, and the leader of the extreme rightwing party Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is known for his harsh criticism of any agreement with Iran and his ferocious opposition to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs as well as to its expansionist projects. This means that Israel will be more aggressive against the Iranian project, and that Iran’s destabilizing actions may neutralize any US reservations on supporting the extreme rightwing Israeli government.

 Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of Rasanah

Ammar Jello
Ammar Jello
Author on Iranian affairs and jihadist groups