When you don't know how to guarantee a deal

November 6, 2021 - 21:42

TEHRAN — As Tehran announces a date to return to the Vienna talks to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), there is more fog in Vienna’s sky than before.

The Republicans have written a letter saying, “Going easy on Iran is a grave mistake that will have disastrous results. Biden should show some backbone and ratchet up sanctions on Iran.”

The letter is written by Morris Jackson "Mo" Brooks Jr., and 4 other Republican congressmen, and was sent to United States President Joe Biden on November 2. 

In theory, Biden’s administration has expressed a desire to return to the JCPOA, but in practice, it has imposed new sanctions on Iran just as it was negotiating with the JCPOA Joint Commission and P4+1 to set a date to return to Vienna. The unconstructive approach has raised some eyebrows in Tehran about Washington’s intentions and seriousness. 

The Republicans have asked Biden not to make any promises to Iran, as they see a prospect to grab the power in 2024. Biden’s approval rating has also hit a new low, reaching %43, after just spending 288 days in the office. 

Donald Trump and Gerald Ford were the only presidents after World War II with lower approval ratings than Biden at this point in their jobs. None of them succeeded to serve a second term.  

Trump is investing heavily to make a comeback to the White House after 4 years. In case Iran and the U.S. agree on a deal, in 2024 Trump will tear it up, as he did in 2018 if he wins the presidency.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat published on November 6, James Risch, a Republican senator, criticized the U.S. administration's approach towards Iran. 

Perhaps the Republicans’ view of a “deal” is clearer in Mr. Risch’s words when he said, “Let's be clear: If the agreement happens, it will be an executive decision, not an agreement with America, and this is what I always explain to our European friends and others. Reaching an agreement with the president is not an agreement with America, but rather an agreement with the president in question. And on the day he leaves office, as was done in the initial agreement that the Trump administration tore up. This is not our agreement and we will not support it, if you want to reach a real agreement you have to put it before the Senate as a treaty. If it gets a two-thirds vote of the members, then it becomes an agreement with the United States, and it will be binding. And if this does not happen, none of us will be bound by this agreement.”

Tehran has asked for “strict guarantees” from the United States in case of a possible withdrawal after a possible Republican comeback. As evident in the November 3 tweet by the Iranian Supreme National Security Council secretary, Biden is not capable of providing Iran with the necessary guarantees, because he has no authority. The truth is, the establishment in the United States dissolves everyone, regardless of the parties or ideologies they belong to. The Democrat Biden has to give tangible and irreversible guarantees if he wants a seat at the JCPOA table. 

Tehran has every right to be worried about the Republicans’ threats, as they have shown that they are not committed to any internationally recognized agreement. The Paris Climate Accord is a perfect example of an internationally recognized deal that Trump withdrew from during his presidency. The move caused Biden to publicly apologize to the members of the accord. 

If Biden is serious to rejoin the JCPOA, as he repeatedly said during his election campaigns, he must lift, not ease, the sanctions, provide Iran with serious, verifiable, and irreversible guarantees.

Naturally, the U.S. as the breaching party must give Iran assurances that it will not violate the deal again, yet, the White House fails to understand this very simple notion. 

What is now clear is that there is less sun in Vienna.