Iran nuclear talks could point to another breakup
The ongoing negotiations on the JCPOA deal with Iran are not going as well as some media seem to suggest. In blunt remarks, several European and American diplomats said the talks are very difficult and Iran’s current position is not flexible. The position taken by newly elected Iranian President Raisi confronts predominantly European negotiators with a clear but unconstructive position from Tehran on a possible deal.
Iran’s main demands are the lifting of the current (oil) sanctions, which were put in place after the United States left the JCPOA agreement under President Donald Trump. Negotiations are heading to a breaking point again, with participating parties considering the option of a restart of the JCPOA 2015 agreement. After the first days of the last round of negotiations, all parties were relatively optimistic, but demands farms presented by Iran have again created an impasse. French, German and British negotiators have made it clear that Tehran’s demands are unrealistic and clearly break with old compromises agreed upon.
In response, US Secretary of State Blinken expressed his disappointment. According to Blinken, Iran does not seem willing to find a compromise or a solution to the current impasse. Blinken also said that if Plan A (JCPOA 2.0) is not realistic, then Plan B will also be on the table. By now, several Gulf Arab states are already internally evaluating what a Plan B option might be. Israeli politicians and military advisers have made it clear that they will not wait for the Raisi government to achieve nuclear capabilities. in large scale.
It seems Iran is playing both sides. Officially, the country is moving towards a renewal of the JCPOA agreement, which should include the United States, and result in the lifting of sanctions. At the same time, Iranian news sites are reporting that Iran is selling its oil at attractive prices to Asian buyers, primarily China, who are prepared to bypass US sanctions.
Tehran’s main spokesperson, Iran Daily, reported that the country is selling oil at prices so low that foreign buyers are willing to circumvent US sanctions. The daily reported that Iranian oil sales to China in November rose 40% from October, reaching a level of around 600,000 bpd. Bloomberg previously reported that the Chinese government allowed small teapot refineries to import more oil in October, mostly Iranian crude.
However, official data, according to Kpler, shows no imports of Iranian oil since December 2020. Kpler said Iranian oil exports have been renamed to come from Malaysia or Oman.
A breakthrough in the negotiations is not expected any time soon. Iran’s new government has been unwilling to put in place the right framework to not only bolster confidence, but also show leniency for less extremism overall. The first months of the Raisi government will not be known for a more liberal line of government, but rather as a re-emergence of ultra-Orthodox clerics and increasing importance to followers of the IRGC. The Raisi government is made up of hard-line supporters and former extremists, some of whom are even on Interpol’s wanted list.
At the same time, Raisi, in a possible attempt to quell opposition inside, is promoting IRGC commanders and followers to key positions in government and local provinces. Last week, Raisi appointed two active-duty Revolutionary Guard commanders as governors in two key provinces. Another recent development has been the appointment by the Iranian cabinet of Abedin Khorram, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in East Azerbaijan, as governor, while Yaghubali Nazari, commander of the IRGC in the province of Khorasan-Razavi also became governor. In reality, this decision means that the two provinces are now effectively under military governance. In contrast, past governments only appointed former IRGC commanders and not active duty commanders. Related: Guyana Votes To Create Oil Wealth Fund
Since 2020, a number of (former) IRGC leaders have been elected to parliament. With the appointment of another row of IRGC commanders as governors, the influence of the IRGC became extremely strong. The growing influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is also noticeable in the ongoing discussions of the JCPOA. Analysts have warned that the dream of democratic renewal under Raisi is unlikely. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appears to be slowly transforming the federal government into an IRGC-controlled body, eliminating possible opposition from the sideline. The IRGC is also considered one of the largest economic players in the country, with hundreds of companies from all sectors under its control.
Time is running out for the JCPOA, Iran is getting closer to Russia. Moscow’s current official opinion is that the negotiations are going very well. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has said in recent days that “the talks in Vienna are going in the right direction”. While Iran has pushed for the removal of Trump-era oil sanctions, it continues to develop its own stockpile of enriched uranium, improve its enrichment capabilities, process uranium to near-grade military grade.
Nuclear developments have already led to direct and indirect talks between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia (at least indirectly) over a Plan B scenario. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has already declared that âIsrael will not allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold country. Sources said the rocket put three devices into orbit for Iran’s civilian space program. Western, Israeli and Arab analysts fear the rocket may not be used for peaceful purposes. According to Iranian defense spokesman Ahmad Hosseini, the carrier was a Simorgh (Phoenix) rocket. He said the three devices were sent to an altitude of 470 kilometers and into the Earth’s thermosphere. The IRGC also has a parallel military program that put a satellite into orbit last year. Most Western analysts agree that the launch of missiles such as the Vienna Talks shows the growing confidence of hard-line supporters in Tehran.
Another failure of the JCPOA talks in Vienna is on the cards, even though most European governments don’t want it to happen. With Russia officially supporting Iran and China remaining on the sidelines, Iran will not be encouraged to change its attitude.
As long as Asian oil buyers continue to buy Iranian crude at a discount, Western or Israeli threats will be averted by Tehran. The oil market must take into account, however, that Israel does not always bark before it bites and that a military surgical strike against Iran becomes more likely over time.
By Cyril Widdershoven for Oil chauffage
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