Washington and Tehran back French President Macron’s four-point document in principle, but distrust overshadows any potential progress.
Last week’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, presented the perfect opportunity for dialogue and diplomacy between the United States and Iran, in what would have been a historical meeting, the first of its kind between American and Iranian leadership, since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. World leaders from France, Germany, Britain, among others attempted to bring the two world leaders together, to no avail.
President Rouhani has said that he is ready to end a nuclear standoff with the United States, if they follow through with lifting sanctions. Last year, President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a multilateral nuclear deal and imposed harsh sanctions on Iran under its “maximum pressure” campaign.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron prepared a four-point document which both sides agreed to in principle, whereby Iran would renounce their nuclear ambitions in return for the United States lifting sanctions since 2017 and allowing the immediate resumption of Iranian oil exports and free use of revenues.
President Macron made numerous attempts during the UNGA to facilitate a meeting and even set up a confidential phone call so that both President Trump and President Rouhani could speak about his four-point plan, however that same day President Trump contradicted the message that President Rouhani had received from his French counterpart, when he mentioned to media plans to increase sanctions against Iran.
In addition to the attempts made during the UNGA, President Macron has tried to mediate for a few months and bring both leaders back to the table. He even proposed a 15 billion dollar line of credit to Iran, if the United States approved, but the United States has not shown much interest in this or other sanctions relief options and sees them as contradictory to its “maximum pressure” campaign.
The conditions stated in President Macron’s deal include Iran agreeing to never acquire a nuclear weapon, fully complying with its nuclear obligations and commitments under the JCPOA, accepting to negotiate the long-term framework for its nuclear activities, also refraining from aggression and seeking genuine peace and respect in the region through negotiations.
Iran has said that even though these conditions do not fully reflect Iran’s position and there would need to be some adjustments to the wording, that they would have accepted the trade-off and are still interested in the plan. Iran blames the US for being a roadblock in this deal by not publicly stating that they are willing to lift sanctions.
It’s an unlevel playing field…while the United States decides when or if they are ready to re-negotiate a nuclear deal, Iranian civilians are paying the price. Sanctions have made it hard for the most vulnerable members of society to afford medicine and food.
The main reason why President Rouhani refused to speak with his American counterpart at the UNGA was because he does not trust that the United States is sincere about their desire to re-negotiate a nuclear deal, they have already completely disregarded the current multilateral deal that was agreed upon under the previous administration and signed by former president Barack Obama. When said agreement was put into place, after a decade of negotiations and countless meetings through diplomatic channels, it was meant to outlive the previous president and continue through future administrations.
Iran is not interested in a meaningless photo-op or another one of President Trump’s publicity stunts where he meets with a “controversial” world leader simply to bolster public opinion. Iran wants action, and that begins with lifting crippling sanctions. Without establishing trust through sanctions relief, they do not see progress as possible.
While speaking at his weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, President Rouhani said that Iran supports the general framework of the plan being pushed by European countries that are part of the JCPOA.
Iran’s allies such as China and Russia have ignored threats by the United States to sanction them if they continue doing business with Iran. While the United States shuns Iran, its leadership has been making strides in increasing diplomatic relations with South and Central American countries, as well as Asian countries with Pakistan even offering to mediate between the United States and Iran.
Iran is set to take its fourth step towards reducing its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) next month if European brokered diplomacy with the United States does not yield favorable results. Every sixty days a step has been publicly stated and then taken since May by Iran. Iran has stated that they are willing to be in full compliance with the JCPOA if sanctions are lifted.
Iran has said that these measures are within the framework of the JCPOA and in compliance with articles 26 and 36 of the Iran nuclear deal. Iran has also said that the IAEA can still access its nuclear sites while it reduces its commitments under the JCPOA. These reductions are in response to the United States’ “extensive and regular” violations of the JCPOA.
It’s seemingly evident that Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign which includes oil and banking embargos has not broken Iran to the point where they are forced to fold on important stances. The Iranian government has called out the United States on their aim to bring Iranian oil exports to zero.
Washington’s on-going attempt at regime-change in Iran has also been noted. Iran hasn’t been shy about exposing the role Washington has played in the Middle East and shining a light on their support for terrorist groups which they claim to be supposedly fighting, while Iran, Russia, Syria and regional partners defeat terrorists.
Iran has called on US troops to leave the Middle East. Washington’s long-term intentions in northeastern Syria and their use of Kurdish militias revolves around protecting Israel, while keeping a watchful eye on Iran.