Iran: Expert says ‘tensions are very high right now’
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The US President had been hoping to resurrect the flagship policy of Barack Obama to curb Iran’s nuclear capabilities after the landmark agreement was abandoned by Donald Trump. New Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was sworn into office on Thursday and wasted no time in firing shots to the West and reaffirming his commitment to the nuclear programme.
The hardline judge, known as the “butcher of Tehran”, boasted Iran had no plans to scale back its military capabilities and cited the growing threats faced in the region.
Dr Christian Emery, an expert on US-Iran relations, says the new government in Tehran will adopt a hardline political approach and make negotiations on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, even more difficult.
The author and lecturer at University College London pointed out Mr Raisi is also under US sanctions himself and insisted the US Congress will not accept a soft approach by President Biden.
Dr Christian told Express.co.uk: “Raisi’s victory illustrates how Iranian politics has shifted to the right since the collapse of the nuclear deal.
“The reform movement has been decimated and hardline conservatives have consolidated power across both elected and unelected branches of the Iranian political system.
“This will undoubtedly make a nuclear deal harder to negotiate because Iran’s position will likely harden and the Biden administration will struggle to mobilise Congressional support for removing sanctions against a regime now led by a president who himself is the subject of US sanctions.”
The Iran nuclear deal was signed by former President Obama in 2015 and overseen by Mr Biden who served as US Vice-President at the time.
The treaty was sensationally abandoned in 2018 by Mr Trump, who argued it was too soft on Tehran and placed crippling sanctions on Iranian exports.
The JCPOA aimed to curb Iran’s atomic programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions.
Tehran has since breached the treaty by increasing its level of enriched uranium – a key component of a nuclear weapon.
President Raisi has pledged to transform the lives of the citizens of Iran, starting with removing economic restrictions imposed by Washington.
He said: “The Iranian people expect the new government to improve their livelihoods… all illegal US sanctions against the Iranian nation must be lifted.”
Dr Christian argued it would be in the interest of both parties to come to a solution on the JCPOA as it would allow President Raisi to deliver of some of his key promises and prevent the need for the US to put boots on the ground in the region.
Dr Christian insists the US President may have to water down his demands to the new Iranian government and not link the deal to include ballistic missiles and an influence on regional policies.
He added: “A deal is probably more likely than not because Raisi needs sanctions relief to even start to deliver his election pledges to bring inflation back to single-digit figures, tackle a huge budget deficit, create a million jobs, diversify Iran’s exports, and address a wide range of shortages.
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“And Biden also wants a deal because he still thinks it’s the best way to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear weapons and avoid another costly US war in the region.
“The problem is Biden also wants Iran to agree to moderate its regional policies and development of ballistic missiles and hopes these issues can be tied into a new deal.
“But it seems highly unlikely that the Raisi administration will agree to this, so a deal is there to be had, but it will probably have to be a narrow one that sticks to trading sanctions relief for Iran scaling back its nuclear programme to the limits both sides agreed back in 2015.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price has warned the US will not change its stance towards Iran and urged officials to get back to the negotiating table.
He said: “Our message to President Raisi is the same as our message to his predecessors… the US will defend and advance our national security interests and those of our partners.
“We hope that Iran seizes the opportunity now to advance diplomatic solutions. We urge Iran to return to the negotiations soon so that we can seek to conclude our work.”
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