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EU Envoy Sets Tehran Visit to ‘Save’ Nuclear Deal
Spanish diplomat Enrique Mora visits International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria, 7 April 2021. (Dean Calma/IAEA)

EU Envoy Sets Tehran Visit to ‘Save’ Nuclear Deal

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has intensified European attempts to revive the deal, expert says  

European Union envoy Enrique Mora, who is coordinating talks with Iran on reviving its nuclear deal with the world powers, will visit Tehran this week. Iranian media reported on Saturday that Mora, the deputy secretary general of the European External Action Service (EEAS) will arrive in the Islamic Republic on Tuesday.

The visit was announced by NourNews, which is an Iranian news outlet affiliated with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), the organization leading the nuclear negotiations.

Mora’s visit is said to be aimed at finding a solution to advance talks for the renewal of the Iran nuclear deal, from which the United States withdrew in 2018. The talks, which began about a year ago, have been stalled for several months after breaking down over outstanding issues between Iran and the United States, which has sought to rejoin the pact, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Considering the EU’s role in exchanging viewpoints between Tehran and Washington, Enrique Mora’s trip to Tehran can be regarded as a new step for constructive negotiations surrounding the few but important remaining issues,” said the report in NourNews.

Strategic analyst Pietro Baldelli, a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Perugia, told The Media Line that the European envoy aims to consolidate the understandings already reached during the long months of negotiations.

“At this stage he no longer has the power to remove the final obstacles which are impeding the signing of a new JCPOA. He aims to freeze the status quo, consolidating the results already achieved,” Baldelli said.

At this stage he no longer has the power to remove the final obstacles which are impeding the signing of a new JCPOA. He aims to freeze the status quo, consolidating the results already achieved.

He described Europe’s role at this stage as a third-party mediator between those with the real power to decide the fate of the negotiations at this stage, namely the US and Iran.

Baldelli believes that both the European players and the EU no longer have the leverage to “save” the nuclear deal, but what they can do is play a crucial “choreographing” role in order to prevent some external constraints to the nuclear talks from gaining the power to let the negotiations fail.

Abdolrasool Divsallar, a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute and a visiting professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, told The Media Line that the nuclear deal is facing a very critical time since the prospects of collapse are equal to the prospects of renewal.

He says that, on both sides, internal politics are blocking the signing of a revived deal.

Divsallar explains that on the Iranian side there is political pressure on President Ebrahim Raisi to sign a deal that will not compromise the core interests of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

And on the US side, he says, there is pressure from both Democrats and Republicans to not remove the IRGC from the US terror list as the Iranians demand.

Vuk Vuksanovic, senior researcher at the Belgrade Center for Security Policy and an associate at IDEAS, a foreign policy think tank of the London School of Economics and Political Science, told The Media Line that it is difficult for the current US administration to sign a revived nuclear agreement.

He says the reason that the Biden administration is having a difficult time in doing so has less to do with international considerations, and more with domestic considerations in Washington. He notes that the designation was introduced during the Trump administration.

“The Republicans are the main source of opposition to the new deal and this is dangerous for Biden particularly since it is expected that they will win in the mid-terms,” Vuksanovic explained.

Divsallar believes that the American side is more likely to give up on its obstacles.

“I hope that one of the sides will make a compromise, but I doubt it will be the Iranian side because, for Raisi, it may have a major political cost for him that could be as big as losing the possibility of substituting the Supreme Leader in the future. That’s why he will continue to guarantee the interest of IRGC security in any future deal,” he said.

Baldelli added that: “I do not think that Iran will quit its demand on IRGC removal from the FTO blacklist.” He said.

He explained that the current hardline Iranian government needs to obtain an “aesthetic” victory to be used as a domestic palliative in order to feed its anti-Western narrative while shaking its hands with Washington.

If the deal collapses and Iran moves toward a nuclear bomb, or the US tries to pressure Iran more, in the two scenarios we will have instability in the Middle East

While Iran and the US are stalling the negotiations with their determination to meet their required demands, from the European perspective the deal is now much more significant than ever.

“While the JCPOA before was only a non-proliferation deal for Europe, right now it has a clear and direct impact on the financial and energy safety of the continent. So, there is a major direct interest in Europe for keeping and safeguarding a deal,” said Divsallar.

Vuksanovic says that now the Russian war on Ukraine is forcing Europe to find an alternative to Russian energy supplies.

He added, however, that the European interest in the deal also has to do with the fact that the countries in Europe had a major part in sealing the original agreement and are interested in the Iranian market.

Divsallar adds that, for Europe, the renewal of the deal is very important because its countries do not want to see two crises on their borders: the Russo-Ukrainian war on one side and a nuclear power in the Mediterranean region on the other.

“If the deal collapses and Iran moves toward a nuclear bomb, or the US tries to pressure Iran more, in the two scenarios we will have instability in the Middle East,” he said.

“That would be the worst outcome particularly now with the war on Ukraine because of the European dependence on a safe energy flow from the Persian Gulf region,” he concluded.

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