Two years have passed since the signing of the ineffective nuclear agreement between world powers and Tehran, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
For those who are familiar with the theocracy in Iran, it is a known fact that all foreign policy in Iran are decided by the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. This is even true in the case of the highly promoted nuclear deal. It is worth noting that before and during the negotiations, Khamenei, said that Oman had a key role in breaking the ice between Iran and the US.
Thus, it is naive to think that the new president, Hassan Rouhani, was the one who changed the 10-year-long stalemate. Iran has an abundance of oil, gas and others natural resources, hence, using nuclear energy is both expensive and controversial.
Independent experts acknowledge that Iran’s goal of maintaining a nuclear program is to produce nuclear weapon. However, Iran has consistently refused these views and claims that its program is of a peaceful nature.
It is worth pointing out that having a nuclear warhead will guarantee Iran’s regional hegemony. Therefore, Iran has consistently tried to achieve it. Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former Iranian president and one of the pillars of the Islamic Republic who died last year, said that Iran was trying to make nuclear bomb.
“When we first began, we were at war and we sought to have that possibility for the day that the enemy might use a nuclear weapon”, he said in an interview. Consequently, the regime in Tehran sought nuclear weapons in order to tilt the balance of power in the region in its favor.
The West imposed comprehensive sanctions against Iran targeting its finance sector and its selling of oil. These intelligent punitive measures exacerbated the Iranian economy that already suffered greatly from decades of economic mismanagement and widespread corruption, to the point of destruction, according to statistics from Iran’s own Central bank. The inflation was over 30 percent in 2013.
Iranian authorities confess that the greatest threat to theocracy is not a foreign enemy, like the US, but popular protests, especially by the disenfranchised poor people and youthHamid Bahrami
Economic poverty put immense pressure on the Iranian middle class, the Iranian government even tried to redefine the base basket of food (government subsidies to the Iranian middle class) to control the inflation. Rouhani's government even started to distribute especial food baskets. The regime’s National Security Council warned about hungry rebellion. Salaries of labors was unpaid and economic deadlock brought the government to its knees.
Although, Iran’s goal of making nuclear weapon was in reach and Tehran increased its intervention in the region, the economic crisis threatened the theocracy's very existence. Consequently, the Supreme Leader ordered his officials to start the negotiation with the West. This was president Obama giving artificial respiration to Tehran.
After the agreement
The sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear program. According to the JCPOA, Iran must redesign and rebuild its heavy-water reactor in Arak. It means that Iran’s abilities to develop and produce nuclear weapon is intensively limited for years. Some experts, diplomats and government officials argue that the sanctions achieved their goal.
But at that time, the JCPOA did not include the rest of Iran’s threatening and destabilizing activities such as its ballistic missile program, dispatch of tens of thousands of militias and paramilitary forces to Syria. The JCPOA did neither addressed the appalling human rights situation in Iran.
Iran and violation of agreement
A conditional approval was published by the Supreme Leader Khamenei with regard to Tehran agreeing to the JCPOA. The document contained several conditions.
One of the conditions was about new sanctions after signing of the agreement, it said that “Any sanctions against Iran at every level and on any pretext, including terrorism and human rights violations, by any one of the countries participating in the negotiations will constitute a violation of the JCPOA, and a reason for Iran to stop executing the agreement.”
Considering that US has imposed several sanctions on Iran after the deal, one must ask the following question, why has Iran not stopped executing the agreement?
The Iranian regime is besieged by extensive social discontent. Over 10 millions are unemployed and many ordinary Iranians are forced to live a life below poverty-line.
Not a foreign enemy
Indeed, Iranian authorities confess that the greatest threat to theocracy is not a foreign enemy, like the US, but popular protests and anti-regime demonstrations, especially by the disenfranchised poor people and youth, breaking the current status quo.
The reality is that the regime has always been at war with the young generation over individual liberties and social freedoms, which challenged the foundation of the regime’s theocracy. That is why Iran’s answer to new US sanctions has been merely rhetoric.
Due to the theocracy’s weak position in the society and its faltering economy, if Tehran abandons the nuclear agreement, all sanctions will be re-imposed. That will led to an economic and political collapse of the ruling theocracy.
Consequently, if president Trump orders to renegotiate the JCPOA, or impose new effective sanctions such as designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, Iran is not able to play its enrichment card.
These were the reasons sanctions forced the Iranian regime to come back to the negotiation table, and it will do it again.
Freelance journalist Hamid Bahrami has served as political prisoner in Iran. He is a human rights and political activist living in Glasgow, Scotland. His works covers Iran’s destructive actions in the Middle East and social crackdown in Iran. He tweets at @HaBahrami & blogs at analyzecom.