People Are the Real Losers in Lengthy, Exhausting Nuclear Negotiations
The editorial of Setareh Sobh argues that in the nuclear talks, it is the Iranian people who are the real losers because they feel the adverse impact on their daily lives.
The truth is that the nuclear talks have become too long and will probably not come to fruition. The talks started a long time ago during former President Mohammad Khatami’s tenure, but the question is: what has Iran gained from these negotiations? How have the talks impacted people’s lives? Realistically speaking, people do not view the nuclear talks merely from a political perspective; they also feel the adverse impact of the talks on their social and economic life.
The other point is the contradiction in political rhetoric. Those who are leading the talks today used to say that negotiations were wrong and repudiated any talks with the West. But the very same people went for negotiations to Vienna in a 40-member delegation and it can be said that they are very serious about the talks. This creates distrust among people as they think that the negotiations are nothing but a part of domestic rivalries and a tool for political disputes between different factions.
Public opinion on the issue of the nuclear talks is more complicated because today many problems within the country are tied to these talks and their outcomes. There is also a kind of consensus in the West against Iran which is disappointing for the Iranian people. The international community has certain tools in its possession that can prolong the process of the nuclear talks. People presume that they are the losers in this lengthy, exhaustive process, making them more concerned.
One of the reasons for people’s passivity towards the country’s political issues – as could be seen in the low turnout in the recent elections – is because of the incompetence demonstrated regarding issues like the nuclear talks and its negative impact on people’s lives. The other reason is domestic disagreements. Different political factions in Iran have different views about issues, as can be seen in the nuclear deal and negotiations.
Difficulties in Returning to the JCPOA
The editorial of Arman Melli states that it is a mistake to think that reviving the nuclear deal (JCPOA) is an easy task.
The talks for reviving the JCPOA were resumed on November 29. After several months of delay and hesitation, it is a positive step that Raisi’s government has decided to return to the negotiating table. But given the existing facts, it might not be realistic to expect these talks to come to fruition quickly.
Besides, the Iranian government’s policies regarding the nuclear program do not seem to be very clear. In fact, Iran’s nuclear program has been ambiguous since its inception in the early 1960s, and there has been no consensus about it in the country. At that time, the experts of the Budget and Plan Organization maintained that Iran’s ambitious nuclear plan could be feasible only if it had economic justifications. The program was supposed to provide 20,000 megawatts, about 20 percent of the country’s required electrical power, by the year 2000.
Now, 60 years later, the nuclear program has managed to launch only one power plant generating less than 1,000 megawatts with Russian management and technology, while the plant, according to a report by the Iranian Energy Ministry, has cost at least $10 billion. The same report highlights that with $10 billion, 20 gas power plants with 50 megawatts each could have been built without any additional costs.
If the costs of Iran’s nuclear program were limited to this and had reached its goal, perhaps it could be justifiable. But the estimates show that the costs of Iran’s nuclear program have mounted to $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion. The confusion regarding Iran’s nuclear program stems from the fact that it has no economic justification.
The JCPOA was a solution reached through a compromise between Iran and world powers to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. But the Achilles’ heel of the JCPOA was separating it from other security issues in the Middle East which impact international security and stability directly or indirectly.
Mismanaging the Energy Challenge
The editorial of Tejarat, penned by MP Alireza Varnasseri, member of the Parliament’s Energy Commission, discusses the problems that exist in the energy sector, particularly electrical power.
Iran’s longstanding electricity crisis has been caused by mismanagement, production problems, and other issues. Iran has more than 900,000 kilometers of electrical power lines for transmitting and distributing electricity and is the 14th country in the world in this regard.
But so far, economic mechanisms have not been used for this vital sector. Iran’s sixth Development Plan outlined that 5,000 megawatts should be annually added to the country’s capacity for producing electrical power. But despite this legally binding duty, in the past eight years, there has only been a 2,500 megawatt increase in production capacity on average. From the year 2000 to 2020, the rate of growth of capacity of power plants has declined in the country.
The reasons for the lack of development in the power sector go back to years of not paying attention to developing infrastructure, the absence of plans for developing this industry using state-of-the-art technology, the flawed policies implemented by the Energy Ministry in previous governments, discrimination, and the failure to reform the consumption model.
Furthermore, no significant measures have been taken to optimize and renovate the electric power network in the country. The failure to develop small power plants and nuclear power plants, the lack of investment in renewable energies like solar energy, and the inability to optimize and reorganize electric power consumption at the domestic and industrial level are some of the factors which have exacerbated Iran’s electricity crisis.
Regarding the low supply of natural gas, there are problems like sanctions, the lack of infrastructure and technology, the increase in industrial and domestic gas consumption and the lack of investment in energy efficient equipment which have resulted in the scarcity of natural gas.
In general, the solution is to increase production, effectively manage consumption and increase investment in this sector.
More Important Than the Water Crisis!
The editorial of Arman Melli, written by “reformist” academic Sadegh Zibakalam, underlines that the most important problem in Iran is the lack of any long-term planning for dealing with critical issues like water scarcity.
It seems that the more we go forward, the more it becomes clear that Raisi’s government does not have a magic wand for resolving all issues and problems. It is not about whether we should expect changes in a couple of months. The truth of the matter is that there is no logical reason for expecting any changes in the executive branch. The bitter truth is that neither the executive branch nor the Parliament plays a considerable role in making large-scale, important polices in the country.
The problem of water is not a recent issue. Statistics show that the average depth of wells doubled after the 1979 revolution, meaning that if in 1979 we could reach a water depth of 50 meters, we should now go down to a depth of at least 100 meters. This is indicative of the horrible truth about groundwater.
The issue is not just about water scarcity. What is more catastrophic is that the decrease in the groundwater would result in land subsidence, as has already taken place across many desert areas in Iran today.
Significantly, in Iran, there is no long-term approach (five-year or ten-year plans) to address this problem. In fact, there is no long-term approach in Iran at all: no long-term plan for air pollution, water, or agriculture.
This is one of the biggest management issues facing the new government at present, even though government officials continue chanting slogans and making populist moves. There is no planning for water or agriculture in the long run. Therefore, the issues grow bigger and bigger, and no long-term solutions are developed to address them.
Regarding population planning or transportation, there is no long-term approach. Nor is there any planning regarding universities’ capacity and the number physicians, dentists, or nurses the country needs.
No proper studies are conducted on these issues, and if any decision is made, it is politically motivated. The lack of long-term planning is the biggest problem which exists in the country.
Nuclear Talks End With No Results; Dollar Price Soars to More Than 31,000 Tomans
After the seventh round of nuclear talks came to an end in Vienna with no results, the forex price in Iran’s unofficial market increased. Based on reports from Tehran’s forex market, the price of the US dollar has reached more than 31,000 tomans.
At the outset of Ebrahim Raisi’s government, the price of the dollar was 25,000 tomans, showing a 25 percent increase in his first 100 days. While the dollar price and the inflation rate increased in the first 100 days of Raisi’s government, his main promise during his election campaign was improving people’s standard of living and bringing down inflation to a single digit.
Likewise, the price of a gold coin in Tehran’s market has increased, exceeding 13 million tomans. The seventh round for reviving the nuclear deal with Iran came to an end after five months of delay under Ebrahim Raisi’s government, with no clear outcome.
Following the conclusion of the seventh round of talks with Iran, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that Iran currently does not seem very serious about returning to its obligations under the JCPOA, threatening that if the talks fail, the United States will take “another path.”
The nuclear talks aim at lifting US sanctions and obliging Iran to limit its nuclear program.
According to Iranian officials, US sanctions have resulted in a drop in government revenues from $100 billion to $8 billion. The Iranian government, which heavily relies on its gas and oil revenues, has faced many difficulties in selling its products over the past three years and has struggled to bring revenues into the country.
Currently, a large part of Iran’s oil revenue from selling oil and gas before the sanctions were imposed by the United States are blocked in foreign banks and the Iranian government cannot access these funds.
Nuclear sanctions were imposed on Iran after former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018, with Trump’s administration adopting a “maximum pressure” policy against Iran to “normalize” Iran’s behavior.
Iran Demands Lifting All Sanctions Due to the US Maximum Pressure Campaign, Says Nuclear Negotiator
Senior Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani said that during the seventh round of talks for reviving the nuclear deal (JCPOA), Iran called for lifting all sanctions imposed because of America’s maximum pressure campaign.
He stated that during the nuclear talks in Vienna, Iran’s negotiation team called for lifting any sanctions in defiance of the JCPOA’s regulations immediately and removing any sanctions imposed on Iran under America’s maximum pressure campaign.
At the same time, has said that during the Vienna talks, Iran called for more concessions than what has been granted to it.
In the meantime, a senior American official who wanted to remain anonymous said that if Iran does not return to its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States will turn to new tools including the imposition of more sanctions by Washington and reimposing international sanctions that were revoked because of the JCPOA.
This official told reporters that Iran’s position during the recent talks has frustrated not only America and the European countries, but also China and Russia which are more sympathetic to Iran.
Iranian negotiators said that in two documents that were given to the other sides in the negotiations, they offered their own views for preserving the nuclear deal and lifting the sanctions.
The E3 – France, Britain and Germany – have reacted unfavorably to these proposals and America said that Iran is not serious about reviving the JCPOA.
In his most recent remarks, Bagheri Kani said that Iran’s proposals cannot be rejected because they are based on the nuclear deal (2015). He has added that even America which pulled out of the deal is willing to return to it. Furthermore, the countries that are still members of the JCPOA do not want the nuclear deal to be destroyed.
Barter Trade Forces Iran to Give Concessions and Discounts, Says Member of Tehran’s Chamber of Commerce
According to a member of Tehran’s Chamber of Commerce, under the current arrangement of bartering oil for goods, Iran must give “both concessions and discounts.”
Hamid Reza Salehi urged that because Iran needs to exchange oil for goods, “whatever goods the foreign seller gives us at any price, we must accept it, and, on the other hand, because our export products are crude oil and petrochemical products, they want a discount as well.”
This member of the Chamber of Commerce is pointing to oil sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States which prompts the buyers of Iranian oil to demand a discount as they have to face the additional risk of sanctions.
Salehi underscored that the sanctions have immensely damaged Iran’s economy, adding that sanctions have not only hindered the development of Iran’s economy, but they have also impacted the country’s economic exchange with the world including imports and exports.
Enumerating the banking obstacles faced in conducting trade, Salehi added that under the current circumstances, exchanging oil for goods does not require using the banking network, and Iran has used this solution to provide for its import needs.
In the past decades, Iran’s economic situation has not been satisfactory, and it has become worse because of the imposition of sanctions. Rampant inflation, widespread unemployment, and other economic issues have deprived Iran of economic growth and development opportunities, while destabilizing its global position.
Some experts maintain that problems like the dominance of certain influential organizations over different economic aspects of Iran, widespread corruption, and the unfair distribution of wealth have reduced the chances of improving economic conditions and increasing investments in Iran’s manufacturing sector.
Half of Iran’s Air Fleet Grounded
According to the Association of Iranian Airlines, more than half of Iran’s air fleet is grounded.
Alireza Barkhour, a member of the Association of Iranian Airlines, said that currently more than 50 percent of aircraft within the country are grounded because of lack of spare parts, particularly engine parts.
According to Barkhour, 170 Iranian aircraft are inactive, implying the same number are still active. The aircraft are grounded due to a lack of financial resources and restrictions due to US sanctions for buying spare parts.
Barkhour warned that if this process continues, more aircraft will be grounded in the future.
Iran’s air fleet is old and sanctions and lack of access to spare parts have aggravated the existing problems.
After reaching an agreement over the nuclear deal (JCPOA) with world powers in 2015, Iran purchased 200 passenger aircraft from Airbus, Boeing and ATR, and received 11 aircraft. But the remaining aircraft were not delivered because of America pulling out of the JCPOA.
Along with the signing of the JCPOA between Iran and the P5+1, America had agreed with lifting sanctions against selling passenger aircraft to Iran and this was included in the deal.
Iranian airplanes have crashed again and again in the past decades, putting different Iranian governments under pressure for renovating Iran’s air fleet.
Hassan Rouhani’s government publicized the signing of contracts with airplane companies for purchasing aircraft as one of the achievements of the nuclear deal in 2015.
Iran’s air industry is heavily dependent on American spare parts which makes it more difficult for Iran to provide parts for passenger airplanes.
During former President Hassan Rouhani’s tenure, Iran intended to replace old airplanes with new ones after signing the nuclear deal, but this did not happen.