Both French President Emmanuel Macron and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on September 1 said they hoped an agreement on reinstating the 2015 nuclear deal, or JCPOA, between Iran and major powers will be secured within the coming days.
“I hope that in the next few days the JCPOA will be concluded,” Macron said during his annual speech to ambassadors at the presidential palace in Paris.
“I am hoping that in the coming days we are not going to lose this momentum [on finding an agreement] and we can close the deal,” Borrell said after an informal meeting of the European bloc’s foreign ministers in Prague.
“It’s clear that there is a common ground, that we have an agreement that takes into account, I think, everyone’s concerns,” he added.
During a visit to Moscow on August 31, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian repeated a previous statement that Iran was carefully reviewing a Washington response to a proposed final text for the return of the JCPOA drafted by the European Union. He added, without elaborating: “We need stronger guarantees from the other party [the US] to have a sustainable deal.”
However, there are growing reports of soundings taken in Iran that indicate officials have concluded that they need a revived JCPOA—which would lift heavy US economic sanctions on Tehran in return for a curbing of Iran’s nuclear development programme to ensure it stays within the civilian sphere—to help address economic stress among Iranians that by now is causing street protests on an almost daily basis.
A big attraction for the West in returning to the JCPOA is that it would open up world markets to Iranian oil, meaning Tehran would have the potential to ease the crude oil supply stress increasingly felt by countries attempting to turn their backs on Russian oil in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The details of how that might work, or not work, in practice remain obscure—Tehran and Moscow, after all, have intensifying relations—but analysts have assessed that Iran could within six months ramp up production to add 2mn barrels of oil per day to world crude supplies if a JCPOA mark II was put in place.
Bloomberg, meanwhile, has reported that French diplomats have privately worried that reviving the deal will become unlikely as the US midterm elections scheduled for November approach and the issue becomes increasingly sensitive.
The Intercept on August 31 reported that in the US hawkish Democrats were ramping up a campaign against a possible restored JCPOA.
Iran’s arch-rival Israel has also this week stepped up its attempts to block a revival of the deal.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on August 31 spoke by telephone with US President Joe Biden after visits were paid to Washington by Israel’s defence minister and national security adviser. The Israeli spy chief is due to visit next week.
Lapid and Biden “spoke at length about the negotiations on a nuclear agreement, and the various efforts to stop Iran’s progress towards a nuclear weapon”, a statement from the Israeli premier’s office said, as cited by AFP.
Lapid told journalists last week that if the JCPOA was brought back it ” would give Iran $100 billion a year” that would be used by Iran-backed militant groups Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.
The Biden administration has made it clear it is under no illusions about Iran but at the same time it says that former US president Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” approach to the Islamic Republic, based on swingeing sanctions, has achieved nothing other than bringing Tehran closer to the ability to build a nuclear bomb.