Nothing more accurate to characterize Trump’s term as president of the USA than to compare the disastrous final results against his argued previous positions regarding the proliferation of the Covid-19 virus and the nuclear development limitation agreement between the 6 powers with Iran (JCPOA). Regarding the corona virus, Trump affirmed that it is simply a cold that will disappear with the heat of April. From the agreement with Iran, Trump withdrew launching renewed and very severe sanctions against that country under the pretext that it was “lies”, and that the continuity of its validity, despite the Iranian compliance with the imposed limitations, guaranteed a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Today we all know that his arrogance and contempt in the face of the danger of Covid-19 claimed the lives of more than half a million Americans during the first year of the pandemic, and that, as a consequence of the reply to his sanctions, today it is evaluated that Iran could have its first atomic bomb in a few months. However, there is a big difference in the two cases. In the face of Covid-19, Trump took a personal position, while the abandonment of the agreement with Iran was due to his unconditional servility to Netanyahu, who demanded this measure from Trump, and which he called “maximum pressure.”
Trump’s unilateral decision, especially the harsh economic sanctions launched against Iran, were answered by a gradual, albeit persistent, departure from Tehran in its obligations under the aforementioned agreement. Basically, the rate of uranium enrichment increased, modern and sophisticated centrifuges were installed and, what is more significant, the percentage of uranium concentration increased substantially. In principle, the limit of 3.67% allowed by the agreement was passed to reach 4.5% and in lately reached 20% or more.
The election of Biden as president of the USA, with his declared commitment to return to the agreement with Iran, raised many positive expectations in Iran and the world, except in the circles close to Netanyahu. Biden, in his first allusion to this issue, a few days after taking office on 20-1-2021, clearly expressed his willingness to return to the framework of the previous agreement, although, listening to Netanyahu’s demands, he set 3 preconditions: A: Iran immediately reverted to JCPOA standards. B: The term of the agreement was extended for a longer time. C: A new item was included that would impose limitations on Iran’s activities in missile development and its support for terrorist groups in the Middle East.
As is its custom, Iran responded immediately. The answer included 4 points. A. Iran is willing to return immediately to the JCPOA standards without any changes or additions. B: As it was the USA that first abandoned the JCPOA on its own initiative, with this objective Iran hopes that the USA will previously declare the absolute cancellation of all sanctions imposed by Trump. C. In order to avoid the recurrence of this situation in the future, a compensation mechanism for damages will be agreed in this regard. D. Iran set a response deadline of 2/25/2021, otherwise, Iran would terminate the activities of the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its country.
The Iranian audacity had its immediate effect. Given the short time available and the high tension created, Rafael Grossi, Director General of IAEA immediately flew to Tehran where he reached a temporary agreement, only for 3 months, in order to gain time for negotiations. For this agreement and period. IAEA cameras will continue to record Iran’s activities at its facilities, but its content will be delivered to IAEA only in the event that a new agreement is reached within that 3-month period.
This Iranian inflexibility managed to erode the apparent and firm position of the president of the until now the world’s leading power. A senior official of the US State Department recognized the US retreat when he declared these days that “the question of who will take the first step in returning to the nuclear agreement of the powers with Iran is of no importance” (Maariv, 27-3-21). The result was immediate. Biden loosened the rope a bit when he released a new proposal yesterday, in part surrendering to Iranian demands. According to the US Politico page, Biden proposes as a first step that Iran is willing only to interrupt the operation of modern centrifuges and the enrichment of uranium to 20%, and as compensation, the USA would cancel part of the sanctions launched against Iran (“US tries to break Iran Nuclear deadlock with a new proposal for Teheran”, Politico 29-3-21).
Again, a few hours later, the Iranian reply was heard. According to an official spokesperson, “Tehran will not stop enriching uranium to 20% until the US definitively cancels all the sanctions imposed on the Republic of Iran. Tehran will continue to reduce its obligations under the JCPOA if the US does not cancel all sanctions. Washington is wasting time very quickly” (“USA will deliver proposal to Iran”, Ynet, 3-30-21).
Stubbornness is not a casual character in this typical game of the well-known Persian bazaar negotiations. Reality is showing that time is working in Tehran’s favor and it is precisely Biden who feels cornered. If an agreement is not reached by May 25, Iran intends to ban the entry of IAEA inspectors. Presidential elections are scheduled for next June 18 in Iran, where a hard-liner victory is predicted, unlike the pragmatists in power today.
To complete the bleak outlook for Netanyahu and Biden, a historic and significant economic-strategic agreement was signed between Iran and China recently. This document guarantees Iran sufficient means to overcome, to a large extent and for many years, the negative effects of the continuation of the US sanctions.
Finally, the “maximum pressure” on Iran that Netanyahu managed to impose through Trump, and in recent times managed to maintain, albeit partially through Biden, ended up exploding in the face of the Israeli prime minister. Not surprisingly, Udi Evental, a retired Israeli Army Colonel and one of the renowned experts on the Iranian front, defines the current Israeli situation with the following words “despite Israel’s long list of surprising achievements to stop Iran, the joint balance in a long-term look we detect a negative trend, which forces us to stop and think about changing Israel’s strategy “(” Excellent achievements against Iran, but the result is negative “, IPS, Herzlya, 30-3 -twenty-one).
It would be prudent to bear in mind that the greatest future possibility is the continuation of a lukewarm war between Israel and Iran, basically behind the scenes, together with a balance of existential fear between two enemies hiding behind atomic ambiguity. One that declares not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the region, although foreign sources claim to be already sufficiently equipped. The second, which does not yet have it, but the world recognizes its arrival at the atomic threshold, and achieving it is only a matter of an own decision in a couple of months.
Herzlya – Israel 4-4-2021