Seyed Mohammad Eslami

Why is the nuclear deal not renegotiable?

February 11, 2017

TEHRAN - By the start of the presidency of the former businessman, there is a transnational debate about the fate of the international nuclear deal between Iran and great powers. Although it would be better to say that after rejecting Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and raising serious questions about the future of NATO and NAFTA, the JCPOA – the official name for the nuclear deal -- is another topic. 

About one year before he becomes president, Iran and three leading European countries – Germany, the UK and France - alongside with Russia, China and U.S. agreed on the joint plan which was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. The JCPOA is based on providing reassuring ways for proving the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear technology and lifting cruel sanctions against the Iranian people. 
Since the accord was achieved, more than 6 times the IAEA has confirmed that Iran has lived up to its commitments under the accord. But there are so many evidences that Tehran still does not enjoy normal economic, financial and banking ties with the outside which was undertaken by the negotiating partners. 
But during his campaigns the new U.S. president had threatened to dismantle the deal or renegotiate it. Why the deal is not renegotiable?


1. Who wants to re-negotiate?
The main obstacle for any proposal for renegotiation is the proposer itself. The new U.S. administration is presenting itself as the most unreliable unpredictable superpower since World War Two. The JCPOA was struck based on mutual respect and a real political will for a win-win solution. Even the Obama administration could not achieve goals through sanctions against Iranians who enjoy a rich history, culture and strong-willed nation. Obama himself wrote many letters to the Supreme Leader explaining his ideas very humbly. But the new U.S. administration which started its work by banning Muslims from certain countries to enter the U.S., a racist policy that is strongly criticized around the world. 

2. It takes more than one to tango
Trump is alone. He is really alone. All other 5 countries plus the EU, have publicly announced that they will support implementation of the JCPOA. The UK prime minister, the closest Western leader to the U.S., after meeting Trump and his friend Netanyahu “made clear that UK supports the nuclear deal that was agreed.” It takes more than one to tango. The agreement is the result of over a decade of tough and breathtaking negotiations. Despite the fact that he does not need anybody’s help to destroy the deal, renegotiating it needs a consensus which does not exist.

3. Iran’s domestic policy
While the Unites States is now under the leadership of a president with no political or military experience, Iran benefits from a strong political structure and elite class. Iran draws its foreign policy by considering the views of various policy making institutions. Then these ideas and proposals eventually become official with an endorsement by the Supreme Leader. Iran is set to hold a presidential election in May. Any major foreign policy project will be automatically delayed until then. Furthermore, the JCPOA is the foreign policy legacy of Rouhani’s first administration. If he wins again, he will defend his legacy. Otherwise we will have a conservative president, which of course will oppose to any diplomatic engagement with such a hostile government in the White House. 

4. The Nature of the deal
The third reason is the nature of the deal. The JCPOA extends for more than a decade. It means that all signatories must adhere to their obligations for more than a decade. From the Iranian perspective, while the accord itself was not ideal, its implementation is not also fully observed by Western countries, especially the Unites States. The Obama administration didn’t do its homework to eliminate ambiguities so that the big financial players including major banks, reestablish their ties again with Iran. 
So the new U.S. administration is under so many questions about reliability and trustworthiness. If the Americans are not committed to the agreement, how one can be sure that they will honor their next deal?


5. Disregard to the current open window
In a hypothetical negotiation, what would Americans ask? Iranians have always insisted that security is not negotiable. So Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities, as an example, would not be an issue for negotiation. Assuming that their bargaining would be about regional issue, there is an ongoing negotiation about the Syria crisis. Governance, constitution and election are three main questions in these negotiations which is held with the support of the UN Security Council. If they are conversant and skilled dealmakers, there is an open window for them. Disregarding the open window and closing their eyes to the aid provided by their so-called allies to the extremist groups including Takfiri militia shows that the White House does not have any pragmatic idea for the problem.
At the end of the day
So there is no way for the idea of renegotiating the deal. However, all these facts do not mean that the gang of racist businessmen and retired generals who don’t hesitate to lie to the public, could not cause real problems for the JCPOA. Although Iran's policy is clear in this case also. "We do not violate the deal, but if the other party violates it, if they tear the agreement up, we will burn it up," Ayatollah Khamenei warned last year.
Moreover, Trump and his national security advisor recently threatened Iran by saying that the country is officially “on notice”. The one who is continuously threatening international peace and security from Mexico to the South China Sea, is also threatening Iran! It is crystal clear that such hostile rhetoric will not work and will make Iran more determined in its policy to strengthen its military capabilities. 

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