The Iranian Nuclear File: Will 2022 Usher in an Agreement or War?
Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, December 23
Only a handful of days are left in the year and soon we will be welcoming 2022. With the advent of the new year, the international community will be bequeathed a handful of crises that must be dealt with to prevent war and conflict. Perhaps the biggest of these issues is the Iranian crisis, which appears on the surface to revolve around the question of whether Iran will agree to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement and stop the development of nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. But the truth is that the equation has become far more complex. It’s no longer about former President Donald Trump’s mistake to withdraw from the agreement, nor is it about President Joe Biden’s insistence on returning to it. The thing is, the whole crisis has changed a lot and no one can simply erase the past four years and pretend they never happened. On the American side, Washington lost its credibility to honor international agreements, and no one can knowingly guarantee that a new president won’t revoke the next agreement reached with Iran. And on the Iranian side, the American policy of “maximum pressure,” the cyber-military proxy wars carried out by Israel, and the onset of COVID-19 pushed the Iranian public to the right and led to the rise of a hawkish new government. And the mullah regime hasn’t sat idly by waiting for America to come back to the negotiation table; they took advantage of the opportunity to enhance Iran’s strategic involvement in neighboring countries like Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Much water has passed under the bridge in the past four years and changes also took place outside of the United States and Iran. The international system also changed, with the rise of China on the one hand, and the Russian audacity on the other hand. What is certain is that both countries, China and Russia, have no interest in adding a new nuclear state to the list of global powers. But at the same time, they know very well that this system has already been violated by India, Pakistan, and Israel, alongside other countries that have enough breakthrough capability to become nuclear powers themselves, such as North Korea, Japan, and perhaps Taiwan and South Korea as well. The US and Iran will continue to test each other’s limits. Iran is applying pressure on the US by supporting Washington’s opponents ranging all the way from Venezuela in the Western Hemisphere to Hamas, Hizbullah, and the Houthis in the Middle East, to signing wide-ranging treaties with China. The United States, for its part, is pressuring Iran through Israel, which insists on leaving the military option against Iran on the table. Unfortunately, there is little room for error. If Tehran feels like the military option is truly a possibility, it may seek to take matters into its own hands before Israel prematurely destroys its nuclear reactors like it has done in Iraq and Syria in the past. The biggest hope for negotiations to succeed is the economic and political conditions that have impacted Iran in the past few years, in large part due to the pandemic. President Biden is in dire need of success, while the Iranian regime is in a state of political and economic exhaustion. In this regard, reaching an agreement would be a huge win for both sides. –Abd Al-Moneim Said (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)