Reasons behind the Iranian regime’s refusal to negotiate informally with the United States

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

The White House expressed disappointment with Iran’s negative response to attending an informal meeting to revive the nuclear deal and stressed that Washington was ready for targeted diplomacy to resolve the issue.

Saeed Khatibzadeh, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that due to the United States and three European countries’ recent positions and actions, the Islamic Republic of Iran does not consider now the appropriate time to hold an informal meeting as proposed by the European Coordinator.

Why does the Iranian regime not consider now the appropriate time?

The “inappropriate time” is well explained by the state-run newspaper Siyasat-e Rooz. “The West has once again resorted to the scorched and repetitive scenario of initiating Iran’s internal insecurity (the uprising of the people of Baluchistan, Iran) to reduce the bargaining power of Iran’s nuclear program. They falsely hope to force Iran to submit its demands regarding its nuclear program, regional activities, and missile technology. All the recent media propaganda and activities of Iran’s opposition groups abroad could be considered as concentrated efforts in this regard.”

The state-run newspaper put forth the regime’s belief that a triangle (three parties) informs the recent social uprisings in general and Baluchistan people’s uprising. The three sides are the Mojahedin, the Iranian regime’s sworn enemies; the dissidents and foreign media, spreading the news of the Baluchistan uprisings in the Western media and on social platforms; and the Western officials, who focus on human rights and cast the Iranian regime in a bad actor.  U.S. Secretary of State Blinken released a statement accusing the regime of human rights abuses in the recent uprising.

After the uprising in Iran in mid-November 2019, Khamenei blamed the same triangle for the uprising. He indicated that the Americans and Israelis had planned the uprising, Saudi Arabia and the states around the Persian Gulf had financed it. Its implementation was by the organization of hypocrites, known as the MEK/PMOI.

Iranian President Rouhani had previously said that after the 2017 uprising, Trump decided to exit from the JCPOA. After the uprising in mid-November 2019, several regime officials explicitly stated that after this uprising, the United States dared to kill Ghasem Soleimani, Iran’s number 2 man. According to the regime and its mullahs, each uprising supposedly emboldens the Western nations to take more significant action against the Iranian people.
It is now clear that the Iranian regime’s refusal for informal talks with the United States was its stand on the Baluchistan uprising and Blinken’s condemnation of human rights abuses. Fundamentally, the regime believes the balance of power in Europe’s negotiations may force them to accept the Western countries’ demands.

At home, the Iranian regime maintains power through terrorist efforts in the region and the Iranian people’s oppression. If they accept concessions, it could break both of these pillars and jeopardize the regime’s future. 

Iran’s main disagreement with the P5 + 1 countries
The regime wants the United States to return to the agreement signed in 2015, which favored the regime. The United States and the European countries plan to include other concerns, such as Iran’s missile program, its regional influence, and perhaps human rights to their negotiations and require these points be part of the possible final agreement. This shift is Iran’s primary source of disagreement with P5+1 countries.

Yet, part of what fuels this shifting stance of Western nations is that the political climate in the Middle East, Europe, and internationally is not what it was in 2015.

Region’s Geopolitical changes
Despite the release of funds and the ability to sell oil as part of the 2015 agreement, Iran’s economy is weakened severely. Decisions to funnel money into its regional militias and other terrorist operations meant little investment in the Iranian people or its economy. When sanctions were reinforced under the Trump administration, the Iranian economy suffered even further. Its currency is falling freely, and its import/export earnings have declined. The Rouhani government has acknowledged that 60 million Iranians are below the poverty line, a number that continues to increase. High unemployment, skyrocketing prices, state institutional corruption, and many similar factors resulted in the two major widespread uprisings of 2017 and 2019.

Iran’s regional influence in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria have been under close watch and frequent criticism. Millions of demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon have expressed their dismay regarding Iran’s proxy militia groups in their respective countries. Ghasem Soleimani, Iran’s very influential person among its proxy groups in neighboring countries, was assassinated. Recently, Russia has been pressuring Iran to reduce its presence in Syria. Israel’s alliance with several Arab countries in the region has formed a new bloc against Iran. For these reasons, the region’s geopolitics has changed. The P5 + 1 countries and other countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, are no longer willing to return to the 2015 agreement. Instead, they want to negotiate a new deal to include all their concerns, including ones left out of the 2015 JCPOA.  

Therefore, the Biden administration is unwilling to give up pressure on Iran easily, unless the revival of JCPOA will include the reality of this new geopolitical balance and the P5 + 1’s concerns regarding Iran’s ballistic missile program that threatens the countries of the region, especially Israel.

Challenges Iran’s Supreme Leader is facing.
The Iranian regime is aware of how the Iranian people are fed up with the government, and a revolt is simmering under the surface. The Balochistan uprising could be considered an excellent example of such hidden potential. The Iranian parliament has officially stated that 60 million people are below the poverty line. That poverty and the struggle of the majority of the Iranian people is nearly ready to boil over. To delay the next uprising, the regime needs the sanctions to be lifted or relaxed. If not, the next uprising will happen soon and undoubtedly result in regime change in Iran. Therefore, the Iranian regime has to submit to the new JCPOA in 2021, given the region’s geopolitical changes, to avoid its destruction.

Based on the Supreme Leader’s absolute monarchy, the Iranian regime has always moved on the two pillars of repression inside its borders and the creation of crisis outside beyond its borders. If one of these pillars collapses, for any reason, the mere existence of the regime will come to an end. Therefore, its nuclear, missile and war-mongering programs in the region are an integral part of Khamenei’s strategy, and he cannot give them up. Khamenei knows that if Iran submits to new demands and relaxes its demanding position, then “every day they will make new demands. One day for human rights, one day for nuclear weapons, one day for missiles and one day for regional issues.” (Khamenei, February 20) 

In Khamenei’s words, Iran’s possible set-back policy is called “infinite degradation.” This policy will only pave the way for the economic and social uprisings in Iran by the people robbed of their fundamental rights in the last 42 years. These people are dying in large numbers every day due to Coronavirus. Their loved ones have been imprisoned, tortured, and executed. This road leads to the regime’s inevitable fall and the ultimate victory for the people of Iran.

The regime prefers the status quo and relentlessly insists on reviving the 2015 JCPOA without any changes. The Balochistan uprising and other uprisings have clearly prevented the regime from imposing its demands on Western countries.

The conclusion is that it is not a question of the United States or Iran taking the first step. The question is whether the regime will surrender to the P5+1 demands in 2021 or fight to maintain its power at the Iranian people’s expense.

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Hamid Enayat

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