The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that they detected 84 percent uranium enrichment at an Iranian facility. Iran has denied allegations that it has increased its uranium enrichment to a level slightly below the 90% typically considered weapons-grade.
Attempts to resurrect the 2015 nuclear deal have been hampered by a lack of unity. Iran and the P5+1 group of nations, which includes the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany, came to an agreement in 2015 to restrict Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the easing of sanctions. Despite Tehran’s adherence to the agreement, former US President Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018, reinstating harsh penalties on Iran.
Since taking office, President Joe Biden has been striving to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, after months of negotiations in Vienna, progress has been slow, and the deal has yet to be reinstated. Furthermore, the political climate has shifted since the agreement was initially signed, with the election of conservative Ebrahim Raisi as president. Despite previously opposing the JCPOA, President Raisi has expressed a willingness to consider the deal. However, it has recently come to light that he has been unable to gain the necessary support for the current draft of the agreement within the Supreme National Security Council.
The US administration is under significant pressure from Republicans and a few Democrats who oppose the restoration of the current nuclear agreement. Sixty-two senators in the United States have declared that they are opposed to restoring the nuclear agreement between Iran and the international community.
Iran supporting Russia
Furthermore, Iran’s backing of Russia in the Ukraine conflict and their suppression of domestic protests have created further impediments in the negotiations. While the United States has thus far refrained from taking a definitive stance, this may shift in October of the current year. This is due to the impending expiration of restrictions on missiles and associated technologies under UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 nuclear agreement.
In 2021, Russia and Iran signed a Cyber Agreement that outlines their commitment to technology transfer, joint training, cybersecurity cooperation, and collaboration in multilateral forums such as the United Nations. Additionally, Iran sold drones to Russia, which were reportedly used in the conflict in Ukraine. However, it’s worth noting that the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed sanctions on companies involved in the production or transportation of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia. The companies that have been implicated in the transfer are reportedly based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Middle East Foreign Policy
The Gulf nations are making strides towards an independent foreign policy that allows them to pursue their goals and interests without outside interference. An example of such efforts can be seen in Saudi Arabia, which has acted as a mediator in prisoner exchanges between Russia and other nations twice since the start of the Ukrainian conflict. This shift in policy also involves restoring relations with Iran. A revived JCPOA would also create a more favorable environment for a lasting ceasefire and eventual political resolution to the brutal Yemeni war.
Rift between the US and Israel
When the original agreement, the JCPOA, was signed in 2015, Israel voiced opposition. Then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued that the agreement would ultimately enable Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. As a result, US-Israel relations regarding Iran became further strained, as Netanyahu expressed doubts about President Joe Biden’s commitment to maintaining the military option in private. Despite visits from President Biden’s national security advisor, CIA director, and secretary of state to Israel to reinforce America’s steadfast commitment to Israel’s security.
The recent announcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran has reached 84% (U-235) enrichment capacity at Fordow has raised concerns about the country’s nuclear program. Iran has claimed that this was due to unintended fluctuations, but it has yet to convince the international community of this explanation.
The Middle East has seen significant changes in its geopolitical landscape, which has resulted in countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE investing heavily in acquiring defense equipment. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was a crucial agreement that aimed to bring stability to the region and put checks and balances on Iran’s nuclear program. However, withdrawal from the agreement has escalated tensions in the region and enabled Iran to pursue its nuclear ambitions without any checks or balances.