Washington understands Iran is not going to give up on the nuclear issue

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As discussions begin in Vienna today between Iran and the world powers on the nuclear issue, the complex situation between Washington and Tehran is reaching a “boiling point”.      The administration officials who wanted to lead to a new and improved nuclear agreement (JCPOA 2.0) understand that Iran, led by Supreme Leader Khamenei, is unwilling to give up, and demands the lifting of all sanctions imposed by the Trump administration  before returning back to the original nuclear agreement. Those officials that tried to examine the possibility of limited lifting of sanctions alongside the cessation of Iranian progress in the nuclear field , discovered that the situation in Iran today is totally different from what it was in 2013.

Alongside the fact that Iranian President Rouhani, who pushed for the previous nuclear deal, was significantly  weakened politically by the U.S. departure from  the agreement, also Khamenei himself is no longer the same Khamenei. It seems thatt he Supreme Leader of Iran has taken matters into his own hands and is now unwilling to give neither Rouhani (in his last days in office) nor any of his people any option to discuss an enhanced nuclear agreement before all sanctions are lifted immediately. That is why any other option that is on the table, even if it is adopted by Rouhani and/or Zarif, is simply irrelevant. Even more than that – it is likely to be very difficult to pressure the Iranian leader to make further concessions even if he is offered economic reliefs, given the extreme degree of distrust he has for the American administration.

On top of that, the U.S. must decide immediately. The agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is scheduled to expire in May,  and presidential elections are scheduled to take place in Iran in  \June. Given the Iranian progress in the nuclear field and the unclear political reality in Iran after the elections, Any delays will probably will not allow to return to the original agreement in the future.

So the American officials left with two frustrating options in front of  them – either the immediate lifting of sanctions or the collapse of the agreement.

Unfortunately for many, Iran’s unprecedented progress in its nuclear program since its exit from the nuclear deal shows that the ability to stop Iran’s nuclear program without such an agreement is small to none. As noted, Iran’s nuclear program is too large and wide to stop it by other means, so it is in the international (if not if not Israeli) interest to return to the agreement as soon as possible. Every step Iran makes in the nuclear program allows its scientists to acquire a great deal of knowledge in the field of uranium enrichment.

It is important to note that in the coming years there will be important events in the Iranian political context (a new president, a new supreme leader) and those with a potential to actually change Iran’s policy (with  the reservations required). That is why, There is no urgency in JCPOA 2.0 agreement – but there is a real urgency to return back the original JCPOA

About the Author
Danny (Dennis) Citrinowicz is a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Programs and a senior WEBINT instructor at Cyberpro. Previously, he was senior fellow at the Institute of Policy and Strategy (IPS) and the Abba Eban institute at Reichman University. Danny served 25 years in a variety of command positions units in Israel Defense Intelligence (IDI) including as the head of the Iran branch in the Research and Analysis Division (RAD) in the Israeli defense intelligence and as the division’s representative in the United States.
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