Spotlight: Fate of diplomacy at stake after U.S. withdrawal from Iranian nuclear deal
by Hassan Rouhvand
TEHRAN, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- Through a two-year intensive negotiations between Iran and six major world powers, the Iranian nuclear deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was framed in July 2015.
The deal had the potential to become a major diplomatic accomplishment over one of the world's controversial issues.
It resulted in depletion of significant number of Iran's centrifuges and reduction of its stockpile enriched uranium.
Although the deal was "imperfect" in nature, through the words of its signatories, it could alleviate the alleged concerns that Iran might have imminently weaponized its nuclear capacity.
However, nearly seven months ago, U.S. President Donald Trump astounded the world by withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal and stroke a fierce blow to the accord amidst the global objections.
Trump's withdrawal came under the pretext that the landmark agreement did not address the growing "threats" of Iran's ballistic missiles program and Iran's alleged "un-constructive" role in the region.
The move by Washington was considered as unjustifiable measure and it created a rupture with its western allies, only to satisfy Israel and some Middle Eastern Arab states.
Accordingly, the return of U.S. sanctions against Iran, which had been lifted under the deal, heralded the renewal of fresh confrontations between the two sides, the impacts of which could spread beyond the borders and the region.
The Iranian economy, which had suffered years of international sanctions prior to the nuclear agreement, feared now hardship in the face of U.S. new sanctions targeting Iran's automotive, precious metal, shipping, financial and energy sectors.
The U.S. administration also scared international companies off any engagements with Iran, otherwise they might be subject to the perils of U.S. punishments.
Pursuant to the U.S. sanction pressures, Iran's economy experienced rise of inflation, unemployment issues as well as significant depreciation of local currency over the past months.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday acknowledged that the U.S. pressures would have adverse impact on the development of the country as well as the livelihood of the people.
In order to avoid detrimental consequences of "violation" of the deal, Iran has urged the remaining parties to the agreement, including Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany, to ensure that Iran would still benefit from the economic interests enshrined under the JCPOA.
Presently, efforts, particularly by the European sides, are underway to devise a special purpose vehicle (SPV), an entity intended to help Iran blunt the impact of U.S. secondary sanctions on the international companies which might trade with Iran.
However, the Europeans have thus far found it difficult to respond positively to the Iranian demands.
In addition, Iran is developing its own mechanisms to bypass the impact of the sanctions. The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has started to offer oil sales to the private sector in the stock market to evade the adverse impacts on the decrease in Iran's oil exports.
Besides, Iranian economic and banking officials have suggested the creation of a sovereign cryptocurrency to offset the hurdles for the financial transactions.
In a countermeasure and in order to mount pressures, the U.S. Republican Mike Gallagher introduced a bill to the U.S. Congress last week, and a corresponding bill was submitted by the Republican Senator Ted Cruz to the Senate, to take a hard line on Iran's efforts to develop its own cryptocurrency.
On Dec. 3, the United States urged the European Union (EU) to enact its own sanctions concerning Iran's continuous ballistic missile tests.
"We would like to see the European Union move sanctions that target Iran's missile program," Brian Hook, the State Department official who oversees Iran policy, said.
Besides, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed earlier that United States would "crush" Iran with economic and military pressure unless it changes its behavior in the region.
On Oct. 20, the Trump administration moreover withdrew from a 63-year-old friendship treaty with Iran.
Under this pressing context, U.S. administration has ironically called for direct and "unconditional" talks for a "real deal" with Iran over the country's nuclear program, its missile activities and its role in the Middle East region.
"I think it (dialog with Iran) is a good idea, and I think it is inevitable," Hillary Mann Leverett, Stratega chief executive officer, said. "Dialog is the only way to deal with Iran," she told Bloomberg.
Defiant to the calls, Iran has dismissed direct dialog with Trump, saying that its missile program and regional policy are, by no means, negotiable as they are matters of national interest and security.
"No UN Security Council resolution has banned Iran's missile program or missile tests," Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi also said last month.
Above all, Iran stressed that it would not enter the talks with the "cheating" U.S. under the threats unless Washington re-endorses the JCPOA.
Although Iran has demonstrated degrees of self-restraint by remaining committed to obligations under the deal following the U.S. exit, it has warned that it might be temporary position and Tehran's patience over the parties' "inaction" would not be permanent.
Iran has stressed that it has kept its end of the nuclear deal so far and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed it in a number of its reports.
Internationally, there are concerns about what Iran may do when it sees the deal fail to guarantee its interests. Iran has threatened to resume its nuclear activities at the level that existed before the agreement and even beyond that level.
There are also concerns of how the United States would respond if Iran possibly behaves otherwise.
The consequences might spell the end of the agreement, the analysts warned.
By far the most important and "the most unfortunate impact of the U.S. decision (to leave the deal and exert sanctions) may be the damage to diplomacy itself, and to the belief that it can still address our planet's most pressing problems," Jon Finer, the chief of staff to former Secretary of State John Kerry, was quoted as saying in the Global Brief on Oct. 31.
"Spoiling the fruits of that effort may make future leaders more likely to forego such cumbersome and time-consuming negotiations, and turn to less elegant foreign policy tools, like force," said Finer, also a former director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department.