The Mission of JCPOA 2: Ensuring Peace in the Region
Leading to the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), during the administration of US President Barack Obama was a less discussed interim agreement in December 2013. This was a six-month agreement that could be extended. That deal restricted Iran’s core nuclear program element, limiting its uranium enrichment to 20 percent and thus paving the way for further agreements and containment.
It appears that the United States is looking for that kind of a model again: an initial agreement that can be extended to the missile and regional issues.
The US assumes that it must first take a step back before taking two forward.
Thus, the new administration’s initial temporary agreement would include a more restricted version of the provisions of the JCPOA. Iran would be asked to cease one of the core activities, such as 20% enrichment, in exchange for small concessions such as a $5 billion International Monetary Fund loan, the release of Iranian blocked assets in a third country like South Korea, or perhaps lifting embargos on Tehran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif or its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
These concessions would be doled out gradually in order to avoid discouraging the regime from further negotiations. Then, in theory, the administration would deal with the shortcomings of the JCPOA.
One Step Back, Two Steps Forward
It is hardly arguable that JCPOA 1.0 was a complete failure. It enabled the regime to broaden its missile program while expanding its militia networks throughout the region using newly released funds, of course at the expense of the Iranian people. The regime’s ensuing actions devastated Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and the rest of the region.
The regime was so emboldened that it sent an accredited diplomat to blow up a large gathering of the Iranian opposition in France in broad daylight. The June 2018 event was attended by hundreds of European and American political figures.
The thwarted terrorist plot targeted the opposition leader, Maryam Rajavi. The diplomat and his accomplices were arrested, and on February 4, 2021, they were convicted of direct involvement in terrorism. This trial stood as one of the most vivid symbols of the JCPOA’s utter failure in constraining the regime’s malign activities. The regime’s ongoing 20% uranium enrichment is additional proof that the JCPOA could not even restrict the targeted nuclear program.
JCPOA 2.0 on the ruins of JCPOA 1.0
The geopolitics of the region has completely changed since 2015. Iran’s influences in Lebanon and Iraq have been widely challenged. The regime’s forces in Syria have been bombed by Israel at least 500 times. Russia is pressuring Iran to reduce its influence in Syria further. Israel’s agreements with the UAE and other Arab countries are forming a new bloc against Iran. Since JCPOA 1.0, the regime has experienced two major popular uprisings in 2016 and 2018.
In 2019, Khamenei managed to escape overthrow only by ordering the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to directly fire on protesters, killing at least 1,500 people. In the meantime, the regime’s de facto No. 2 official and central regional figure, Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, was eliminated in January 2020. In this situation, the parties to JCPOA 1.0 will certainly no longer address the nuclear issue alone. The regime’s regional influence and its missile programs will at least be on the table during the talks.
A successful agreement would encompass the regime’s regional influence and missile programs
In addition to its nuclear ambitions. At the same time, and crucially, it should include a demand to end executions. As well as suppression of freedoms of expression in Iran. Otherwise, JCPOA 2.0 will be a failure as well, and once more, Tehran will dupe the international community.
The Iranian regime’s survival is based on the two pillars of repression and executions at home. Along with terrorism and warmongering abroad. The nuclear weapons program guarantees the regime’s survival and is part and parcel of its terrorism and the spread of violent conflicts.
If negotiations lead to a cessation of executions and more democratic openings, including respect for freedom of expression, then the people of Iran will not allow the regime to use all the country’s resources and wealth to pursue atomic weapons or terrorism in the region. That will be instrumental in building a safer and more peaceful regional architecture. And, it allows Europe to be loyal to its core democratic values while acting as a truly “honest mediator.”