Time to revive the Iran nuclear deal: American Prospect

March 9, 2022 - 21:14

TEHRAN - Writing an article in the American Post on March 7, senior American journalist Ryan Cooper said it is time to lift sanctions on Iran by restoring the 2015 nuclear deal, especially as the world if facing a sharp rise in oil prices.

Donald Trump introduced a total oil embargo against Iran after his administration quit the nuclear deal – JCPOA – in May 2018. This happened despite the fact that Iran was fully loyal to the terms of the JCPOA.

Cooper says Iran did nothing to deserve sanctions. He notes Trump “betrayed Iran for no reason”. 

The journalist suggests it is “time to make amends”, especially as the price of oil “is shooting through the roof” due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Western sanctions on Russia.

Following is the text of his article: 

Negotiations with Iran over reviving the Obama-era nuclear deal have gained new urgency. American policymakers are now overwhelmingly concerned with Russia, and eager to get more oil supply online. Iran, of course, would very much like the punishing sanctions inflicted on it removed. A deal may be reached imminently.

This is an excellent idea for three reasons.

First and perhaps most important is basic fairness. Iran did nothing to deserve the sanctions it is currently suffering. On the contrary, Donald Trump unilaterally reneged on the first iteration of the deal inked in 2015 for no reason, other than the war lust of Iran hawks in the D.C. “Blob,” as President Obama’s foreign-policy aide Ben Rhodes memorably dubbed the bloodthirsty foreign-policy establishment.

This fact is often lost in chauvinist American media. It was a blatant betrayal of promises the American government had already made. One administration said that if Iran fulfilled certain conditions, it could get sanctions lifted, and it duly complied. Then our janky Constitution elevated a reality TV sex pest to the presidency, and he stabbed Iran in the back. He compounded the betrayal by assassinating a popular Iranian general, which nearly caused a full-blown war.

The reimposed sanctions have bitten hard into the Iranian economy, causing serious inflation, shortages of all kinds of goods (including medicine, which greatly hindered its response to the pandemic), and widespread poverty. As always, ordinary Iranian people suffered the most from American sanctions, not the elite. Removing them would help restore a modicum of prosperity to a citizenry that has felt immeasurable pain for half a decade through no fault of its own.

The second reason is oil, the price of which is shooting through the roof. Before Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, oil was already near historic highs, thanks to the combination of high demand from the booming Biden economy and supply disruptions from the pandemic. But since the invasion, it has shot up another 10 percent or so, as of the time of writing. Despite the fact that the sanctions regime clamped on Russia exempts most oil and gas transactions, many traders are reportedly avoiding Russian oil out of fear or solidarity with Ukraine, and multinational oil and gas firms are pulling out of Russia as well. Meanwhile, the Russian economy is cratering, and the war might disrupt production. Further price increases are highly likely.

As much as it pains me to say as a climate hawk, it would be nice to have some more oil over the next few months. It is still maddening that the world didn’t build out masses of zero-carbon energy a decade ago so humanity was not so dependent on filthy oil energy. And as Alex Pareene argues, it is still a good idea to start doing that now, as quickly as possible.

But that will take years at a minimum, and in the immediate future, oil shooting up to $150 or $200 a barrel would be an economic disaster. It would mean higher inflation, both directly and because oil is a key input to hundreds of industrial processes, not to mention shipping and transportation of goods. Higher gas prices especially would knock more points off Joe Biden’s approval rating. It would threaten the economic recovery and potentially even slow down a green transition, as cash that could have gone into zero-carbon energy instead goes to higher energy bills.

Contrary to witless propaganda from conservatives, fracked oil from domestic U.S. producers is not going to cut it. Wells take months to years to drill and get producing, and in any case fracking firms ruled by Wall Street’s whims are none too eager to expand supply because they are currently collecting easy fat profits, and returning them to investors in dividends and buybacks.

However, that is not true of Iran. Bloomberg reports that the country has approximately 103 million barrels literally loaded up on tankers ready to go tomorrow. That is not all that much in the grand scheme of oil production, amounting to somewhat more than one day’s worth of global oil demand. But it would still be a sizable supply injection in a market that has become very tight. Then Iran has something like 1.5 million barrels a day of additional capacity that could likely be brought online very quickly. Better still, unlike fracking wells, this would not require wasteful new investment—just turning on the machinery that has been idled since the Trump betrayal. It’s the best source of supply available.

I believed then, and believe now, that Iran could easily make a better friend to America than its neighbors in the region.

The third reason is diplomacy. Iran has long been a fairly close Russian ally, in part because of aligned interests, and in part because of the isolation imposed by America.

Peeling Iran away from the Russian camp would further isolate the Putin government, defuse a potential source of dangerous conflict, and possibly even lead to a salutary regional realignment.

When the nuclear deal first passed, I argued that its greatest potential benefit was its example—the U.S. dealing fairly with an overwhelmingly Muslim country in a way that cuts against the wretched tit-for-tat politics of the war on terror. I believed then, and believe now, that Iran could easily make a better friend to America than its neighbors in the region.

Just look at the total uselessness of America’s other so-called allies in the Middle East (West Asia) in the current crisis. Neither Saudi Arabia, nor the Persian Gulf monarchies, nor Israel are supporting the effort against Putin. Every one of these nations treats the U.S. with entitled contempt, expecting U.S. backing for whatever they feel like, and providing no similar compromises in return. Israel demands free use of the American veto at the UN Security Council, while spying constantly on the American government, and refusing to heed American requests that it stop building settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Saudi Arabia spends ungodly sums buying influence in Washington, and according to the CIA, its dictator Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. legal resident who was also a Washington Post columnist. Bin Salman has since refused to apologize or even admit what he did. The Saudis have also deepened their relationship with Russia and are refusing to increase oil production amid spiking prices.

Unlike the brutal Saudi dictatorship, Iran is at least sort of democratic. Unlike Israel, it does not maintain an apartheid regime over millions of people.

Anyway, sorting out America’s diplomatic relationships in the Middle East (West Asia) so they make some sense would take a long time. But that is all the more reason to get started now. Reportedly, Iran would like assurances that it will not be betrayed again, for obvious reasons, though it’s hard to see how Biden could provide them. I would advise Iranian negotiators to strike while the iron is hot—and once that oil money starts flowing, invest it in non-oil businesses, especially zero-carbon energy. Oil may be expensive now, but it’s only a matter of time before the price collapses once more.

 
 

Leave a Comment

2 + 5 =