By Mohammad Mazhari

Iranian and American negotiators are under pressure: professor

July 18, 2022 - 13:13

TEHRAN - A professor of government at Georgetown University in Qatar says both Iranian and U.S. negotiating teams are under extreme pressure to extract more concessions.

“both sides are trying to extract the most concessions but the Iranian and the American negotiating teams are under extreme political pressure at home and they have to deliver on an agreement that somehow can be sold to domestic constituents,” Mehran Kamrava tells the Tehran Times.

For example, Kamrava say, “The Iranian side has to deliver an agreement that somehow appears better than what was reached in 2015 or at least is not as bad in constraining Iran’s activities as the 2015 agreement was.”

He adds, “The American negotiating team also has to deal with an intransigent Congress which is not willing to come to an agreement with Iran.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: How do you evaluate the recent round of nuclear talks between Iran and the U.S. in Doha? Is Qatar going to replace Oman's role in mediating between Iran and the U.S.?

A: For a number of years Qatar has been trying to mediate between Iran and the U.S. in different ways. Mediation is one of the central pillars of Qatari foreign policy and whenever there is a dispute Qatar offered its good offices in order to mediate between the different parties.

“Neither the Americans nor the Iranians have the political courage or the political capital at home necessary to reach an agreement.”The conflict between Iran and the United States of course lends itself to mediation and Qatar has been trying to play a mediating role between two countries. 

For a number of years both the U.S. and Iran have been reluctant to allow Qatar to play a mediating role for a number of reasons. 

Qatar has a particular style of mediation. Qatar also wants to be involved in setting the agenda of the mediation. This time, however, Qatar has simply offered to once again restart the talks providing a forum for discussion rather than being actively involved in setting the agenda for the mediation. In this respect Qatar has offered a welcome alternative venue for indirect talks between Iran and the United States.

 My sense is that at this particular juncture Qatar’s involvement is useful because everybody knows that Iran and the United States are talking. When they talked in Oman those discussions were held in secret and confidentially. Now Iran and the United States are talking indirectly through Qatar.

 There is no secret about the fact that they are engaging in negotiation. In that respect Qatar is simply lending its good offices as a venue for mediation.

Q: Iran and the U.S. fault each other for the stalemate in the talks. Is it really a blame game or are they trying to extract the most concessions from each other?

A:  My sense is that both sides are trying to extract the most concessions but the Iranian and the American negotiating teams are under extreme political pressure at home and they have to deliver on an agreement that somehow can be sold to domestic constituents.

The Iranian side has to deliver an agreement that somehow appears better than what was reached in 2015 or at least is not as bad in constraining Iran’s activities as the 2015 agreement was.

 The American negotiating team also has to deal with an intransigent Congress which is not willing to come to an agreement with Iran.

Neither the Americans nor the Iranians have the political courage or the political capital at home necessary to reach an agreement.

As a result they are trying to extract the most concessions from each other. 

Q: To what extent does America need to revive the JCPOA in light of the Ukraine war and price of oil?

A: It doesn't appear that the revival of the JCPOA has the same priority in the United States that it does for Iran. The Iranian side needs the JCPOA much more urgently and immediately for sanctions relief than the American side does. For the Americans there are a number of other priorities; there are domestic congressional elections coming up in November. There is the Ukraine War and there is America's reintegration back into the world.

 The revival of the nuclear agreement with Iran ranks probably third or fourth in importance as far as American foreign policy is currently concerned. So it doesn't appear that the Americans are as eager to come to the nuclear agreement as Iran is.

The price of oil might be somewhat influenced by reaching the nuclear agreement although I doubt if that is a motivating factor for the United States because there are a number of other sources.

Q: How do you see the positions of Persian Gulf Arab states towards reviving the JCPOA? While countries like Qatar and Oman welcome it Saudi Arabia seems to be a harsh opponent of it.

Since Iranian Revolution of 1979 the Arab states of the Persian Gulf have capitalized on tensions between Iran and the United States, not only have they filled the strategic and economic and commercial vacuum left by Iran in relation to the United States, they have also been able to engage in massive Arms purchases from the United States.

 They have also attracted significant amounts of American investment in their domestic industries and domestic economies irrespective of their human rights records.

 As a result none of these countries welcome a revival of the JCPOA or any sort of dialogue between Iran and the United States. Even countries like Qatar and Oman that from an official standpoint support the JCPOA, but the Qatari Street (the average person in the street) or the Omani Street (the average Omani) does not necessarily support any sort of reintegration of Iran back into the international community, because there are aware that this would result in a loss of the leverage and comparative advantage in relation to the United States or the European Union.

Q: Do you think Iran needs a revival of the JCPOA in light of its strategic partnerships with Russia and China? Don't you think the world is going to be more polarized with China and Russia holding more sway?

A: Certainly the world will be more polarized and certainly Iran has managed to either evade sanctions or find workarounds around them.

But here Iran needs investments not necessarily from the United States but from countries like Japan and South Korea. it needs trade with countries in Europe. It needs to be part of the international banking system.

So it's not just a question of the JCPOA; it's the secondary sanctions. It's the ability to engage in purchases in today's highly complex globally interdependent economy to engage in international commerce and trade. And while Russia-China axis may offer some reprieve to the country like Iran, it is ultimately insufficient when it comes to today's modern economy in order to foster meaningful economic growth and industrial development.

 As a result Iran needs somehow the sanctions to be lifted on its banking system and it needs to be able to import high-tech goods, Iran’s vast market needs access to semiconductors and microchips and millions of Iranians who live outside Iran need to be able to engage in trade with the country.

 So it's not just the nuclear agreement on its own, it is all the other related restrictions that come with it that ultimately make it important for Iran to break out of its current stranglehold of sanctions.


 

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