Iran’s future will remain bleak as long as the current ruling regime remains in Tehran. The current powers that be are characterised by a rapid retreat from most of their decisions — whether international or regional — as this desperate regime coexists and derives its continuity from the suffering of its people.
High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell’s recent visit to Iran came to break the deadlock between Tehran and Washington over the re-establishment of the nuclear agreement after the two parties were close to reviving the agreement last March.
This is when the EU — which is coordinating the negotiations — invited ministers to Vienna to finalise the agreement after 11 months of indirect talks between Tehran and US President Joe Biden’s administration.
However, the talks have since faltered, mainly due to Tehran’s insistence that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards — its special security force — be removed from the US’ list of foreign terrorist organisations.
The currently suspended negotiations aimed to lift the sanctions Washington imposed on Tehran after its withdrawal in exchange for the latter’s return to compliance with its nuclear commitments, which it retracted after the US’ move.
The possibility of reversing the measures taken by Iran to reduce its nuclear commitments in the event of reviving the 2015 agreement with the major powers — since Tehran had earlier signed an agreement with six major powers on the Iranian nuclear programme — had a significant impact.
This willingness to retreat on the part of Tehran made it possible to lift sanctions against it in exchange for restricting its nuclear activities. But the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018, re-imposing harsh sanctions, and Iran responded after nearly a year by beginning to gradually retreat from most of its basic obligations.
Iran and the parties to the agreement — France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China — with indirect US participation, have held talks in Vienna since April 2021 to revive the agreement, but they practically stopped last March, with points of disagreement remaining between Washington and Tehran, although the negotiators confirmed that the understanding is almost complete.
The International Atomic Energy Agency also called on Iran to immediately resume dialogue to avoid a major crisis that would make salvaging the agreement on its nuclear programme more complicated.
But the international community was surprised when Iran shut down 27 cameras that allowed international inspectors to monitor its nuclear activities, in addition to other monitoring systems via the internet. This is after the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors adopted a resolution criticising its lack of cooperation.
The retreat this time was after Tehran initially agreed to the EU’s offer for a nuclear agreement, but Iran quickly changed its point of view and announced its rejection of the proposal, which once again shows the confusion of the regime in Tehran.
Tehran is trying to fill the gaps caused by the crisis brought about by the sanctions, confront the moribund currency crises, popular anger, and new sanctions that may dry up its coffers. Iran is closer than ever to drowning.
Western reports confirm that the Iranian president is facing a real crisis and that with a little more pressure on Biden’s end in terms of sanctions can rid the world of this nightmare.
Over the past months, the Iranian currency has been in free fall, and Iran has entered into a spiral of widespread protests across the country, fuelled by the economic grievances of low-income groups, which casts doubt on the stability of the regime.
Tehran has tried to stem the devaluation of its currency and the flight of capital abroad, but without much success. It seems that the Iranian president’s decisions are not just a sign of the regime’s suffering from a severe crisis, but rather a direct assault on the upper-middle class that supports it.
This bloc of Iranians has long abandoned the hardliners, believing that they can change the authoritarian state from within by supporting less hawkish regime officials.
It is believed that once these people abandon Ibrahim Raisi, they will have nowhere else to go except in the direction of pro-democracy activists, writing off the possibilities of regime change from within. Instead, they would prefer to bring down the entire regime. Are we waiting for that storm?
Dr Hatem Sadek is a Professor at Helwan University