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Regional and international developments further isolate Iran

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Regional and international developments further isolate Iran

US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman testifies before a session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington on October 3, 2013. (AP file photo)
US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman testifies before a session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington on October 3, 2013. (AP file photo)

Iran is becoming increasingly isolated and pressure on the regime is growing. This is due, firstly, to the shifting geopolitical situation in the Middle East, starring Turkey, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to the Gulf last month sent a strong message to Iran. Russian officials have indicated they are looking for new partners in the region, as evidenced by developments in Syria. These events will put more pressure on Iran and block international political avenues for the regime.
Second, Iran is losing some of the areas that previously provided it with security or political influence and advantage. The recent conference on Syria attended by Turkey, Qatar and Russia in the absence of Tehran is likely to demonstrate that the regime is no longer an active recruiter in the field. In Syria, where Iran has invested heavily both financially and in terms of human resources, it has gained almost nothing. The same thing is happening in Iraq.
Baghdad is increasing its political distance from Iran and is gravitating towards the West. Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq was a clear message in this regard. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi cannot be considered a loyal ally of Iran. Tehran’s investment in Iraq has hit a record low. The whole relationship is completely different from six years ago.
Iran is banking on the return of the 2015 Comprehensive Joint Action Plan (JCPOA) nuclear deal so that it can continue to benefit from it, but this belief is wrong. Every international agreement is the result of the balance of power at that time. Today’s balance of power is not a continuation of that of 2015. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Biden administration does not support the original terms of the JCPOA, acknowledging the changing international and regional situation for both Iran and the US. . Even those who negotiated and defended the JCPOA at the time acknowledge that the agreement needs to be changed to better reflect the new regional and international position. Wendy Sherman, America’s chief negotiator for the JCPOA and President Joe Bidens nominated for deputy secretary of state, did not defend him at its Senate approval session last month.

Tehran is banking on the return of the 2015 nuclear deal so it can continue to benefit from it, but that belief is wrong.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Third, Iran has gone through two uprisings since the signing of the JCPOA. President Hassan Rouhani has said it was only after the 2017 uprising that Donald Trump dared to abandon the nuclear deal. With the recent uprising in Sistan and Balochistan province, the Iranian Foreign Ministry rejected unrelated talks with the US because it was not a good opportunity. For this reason, Iran’s role in the new balance of power is so minimal that the regime is currently attacking US bases in Iraq in an attempt to force the US to negotiate its terms.

At the regional level, Israel and the Arab states have become closer. During her hearing, Sherman referred to the Abrahamic Covenants, which have changed relations and power within the region. These new partnerships make it more difficult to deal with Iran, as the regime feels supported in one corner. We also face a new wave in Congress, which only unites Iran’s challenges as it seeks to achieve its vision of successful negotiations.
Fourth, Republican lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have introduced eight pieces of legislation in an effort to prevent the White House from returning to the JCPOA. These cover issues such as tightening sanctions against Iran, opposing easing of sanctions, and declaring no support for the JCPOA. One of the bills, introduced by Senator Bill Hagerty and requiring congressional oversight of any government plan to lift sanctions, has won the support of 27 senators. Another plan is a resolution introduced by Senator Tom Cotton, who opposes any form of easing of sanctions unless all disputes with Iran, including its nuclear programs, ballistic and regional missiles, are addressed. This bill has attracted 31 sponsors. Two parallel schemes have also been introduced in the House of Representatives and have attracted 24 and 30 supporters respectively.
The main criticism of Conservative Republicans and prominent Democrats in Congress in 2015 was that the JCPOA only temporarily blocked Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, and that a series of deadlines were written in terms. These would allow the lifting of all restrictions on Irans’ nuclear and missile programs. For example, in 2030, Iran would be allowed to enrich uranium indefinitely and increase its number of centrifuges and their quality indefinitely. This level of uranium enrichment capacity would put Europe at risk.
At the Shermans Senate hearing, Senator Mitt Romney criticized the JCPOA because of these deadlines. He then asked her for a long term and Sherman, who was expected to back down against this criticism because she was one of the JCPOA architects, did not respond to Romney and simply said: Yes, the situation has changed.
As a result of these developments, Iran’s increasingly isolated regime appears to be at its weakest point since its inception in 1979.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is an Iranian-American political scientist educated at Harvard. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Responsibility: The views expressed by the writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News.

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