Majid Rafizadeh/Spoiler alert ahead of Iran’s nuclear deal


Spoiler alert ahead of Iran’s nuclear deal
Friday, 30 January 2015
Majid Rafizadeh/Al Arabiya

The United States and Iran are making partial diplomatic headway as they resumed nuclear negotiations on January 18 in Geneva. Although the six world powers (known as the P5+1: the U.S., France, the UK, China, Russia, and Germany) play a role in either advancing or scuttling the nuclear talks, nevertheless, the two crucial players in this political game are America and Iran.

As the nuclear talks have resumed, the war of rhetoric between hardline Iranian lawmakers and the U.S. Senate (primarily the Republicans) has ratcheted up over the 18-month-long international negotiations. The Iranian parliament sent a message to the U.S. Senate stating that it will retaliate in case any new sanctions are imposed on Iran.

By closely examining Iran’s decade-long nuclear file, one can extrapolate that Iran’s nuclear history and the ongoing negotiations is multifaceted and complex. The agreement to seal a final nuclear deal cannot be one–dimensional, or operate on one level between President Obama and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

“Both Republican and hardline members of Iran’s parliament would likely desire to see the failure and collapse of the nuclear talks”
Majid Rafizadeh
In fact, the final nuclear deal will require several different accords on various spectrums. The first agreement needs to occur between Obama and Javad Zarif. The second agreement needs to happen between Rowhani’s administration and the Iranian parliament, particularly the principalists as well as hardline lawmakers.

The third accord will need to be struck between the Obama administration and the Senate, primarily with the Republicans. The last dimension of the accord is required between the Rowhani administration and the senior cadre of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as well as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

This multi-layered character of a potential nuclear deal highlights the complexity of Iran’s nuclear file and any accord that might lead to a comprehensive and final deal between the U.S. and Iran.

Odd bedfellows: Republicans and hardline lawmakers

President Obama has frequently given a bold message, including most recently in his State of the Union speech, that any legislation that introduces new economic or political sanctions on the Islamic Republic will undermine the last steps of the nuclear negotiations to reach a comprehensive deal. The president could utilize his veto power in this respect.

Nevertheless, some members of the U.S. Senate including Republicans and Democrats are charting a specific way to develop legislation, a sanction bill on Iran, which can override the veto power of the President Obama. This will require the Republicans to convince 67 senators to sign the bill. Currently, Republicans hold 54 of the 100 seats in the Senate.

Although Republicans and Iranian hardliners appear to be odd bedfellows, the reasons behind the escalating pressure from both Iranian hardliners and Republicans are different, multilayered and complicated.

From the perspective of some Republicans, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry should not be the only actors defining the destiny of the international negotiations. Instead, members of the Congress should play a crucial role in international negotiations.

On the other hand, some others might point out that the 18-month-long international negotiations between America and Iran, have become a convenient platform for Iran to buy time, stabilize its economy, and continue enriching uranium and building more nuclear reactors.

The argument goes that Iran will be in a much more empowered position economically, geopolitically and strategically. This will empower Tehran to be less willing to compromise on the negotiating table.

Yet, others believe that President Obama has been lenient towards the Islamic Republic. No concrete and constructive outcome has resulted from the international negotiations.

Republicans and Iran’s hardline lawmakers: Allies?

When one analyzes the actions of Republicans and Iranian hardliners, one might reach the conclusion that they are rivals when it comes to the nuclear negotiations.

Nevertheless, when their objectives are examined, they are more allies than rivals. Both Republican and hardline members of Iran’s parliament would likely desire to see the failure and collapse of the nuclear talks.

Some members of the Iranian Parliament are working on a resolution that would empower Iran economically, so that Tehran would not be a weak player in the nuclear negotiations. In addition, the Iranian Parliament is charting some legislative bills which would necessitate the Iranian government to utilize centrifuges in order to enrich uranium more effectively. According to Mohammad Hassan Asfari, a member of parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, the bill will allow Iran’s atomic energy to resume enriching uranium to 60 percent, which is a short technical step away from acquiring bomb-grade materials.

Iranian principalists and hardline lawmakers hold the opinion that the Rowhani administration is giving away too many compromises and undermining Iran’s right to enrich uranium. The same view of domestic distrust is being held between U.S. Republicans and President Obama. The Republicans fear that a final political agreement would leave Iran with a clear path to becoming a nuclear state.

If a final nuclear deal is not reached by March 24, the negotiations will face a much more uncertain fate and will likely enter a stalemate.