The agreement could be reached as early as the end of February or beginning of March, predicts the analyst, adding that Iran is interested in seeing the easing of Western sanctions. Washington, in its turn, would like to use Tehran as a tool for pressuring China.
Last week, Iran and the superpowers returned to the negotiating table in Vienna to attempt to seal a deal concerning Tehran’s nuclear programme. The deal was effectively terminated in 2018 when the United States abandoned it unilaterally.
Officials close to the talks say the window of negotiations is running out and that there are “weeks, not months” to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal that aimed at supervising Iran’s nuclear progress in exchange for the lifting of Western sanctions.
Deal is Close
But Taleb Ibrahim, a Damascus-based expert on Iran, who has written several books on the subject, says the deal is highly likely by the end of February or the beginning of March.
The reason for his optimism is the “desire of both, the US and Iran, to reach a deal”. “Nobody will want to be taken responsible for the failure of this round of talks,” he says.
However, it is far beyond exchanging accusations. For Washington, a deal with Iran is needed as a means to put pressure on its rival China, which is dependent on the Islamic Republic for energy.
The Joe Biden administration, which is coping with the raging coronavirus pandemic and inflation, has no interest in opening a front with Iran, especially after having wrapped up US military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Iran is not interested in a military confrontation either. It is suffering from the heavy burden of Western sanctions that have been crippling its economy, and is interested to reach a deal to lift them. The leadership of the country understands that it will only be possible through diplomacy and negotiations.
“The Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Khamenei is a very experienced, realistic and pragmatic man. He wants that deal to happen but he also wants to preserve the dignity and the strength of Iran. And he wants to make sure that Iran’s rights are preserved,” said Ibrahim.
For Peace or War?
The Islamic Republic has long claimed it had the legal right to work on its nuclear energy programme, claiming it was pursuing peaceful purposes only. However, a number of regional and international players have been sceptical about the purity of Tehran’s intentions, and some have even alleged Iran was developing weapons of mass destruction that could be used against its rivals.
One of the international community’s main concerns is the fact that Iran has begun to enrich uranium to 60 percent since April 2021. Although its amount is relatively low and it falls short of the 90 percent mark needed for weapons production, it is still an indication that Tehran is on the path to nuclear independence.
Another reason for worry is the progress Iran has made on its advanced centrifuges, more powerful machines that can enrich uranium far faster that Iran’s first generation equipment. Q third is the country’s ballistic missile programme, that has been growing in size since 1998.
Yet, Ibrahim is certain that the West has nothing to worry about.
“Iran needs atomic energy for space, agriculture and medical progress. They need it to improve their prestige and lifestyle,” said the Damascus-based expert.
“They don’t want a bomb, simply because they know they will be gaining nothing by getting one. The international community will be against them and the sanctions will only get bigger, something that Iran cannot afford.”