Which countries are dissatisfied with Iran?

Agreement with IranWhich makes reviving the atomic deal complicated

Tehran is a metropolis with around twelve million inhabitants. But the Iranian capital is different from other world metropolises. You can tell when you arrive at Imam Khomeini International Airport. It looks more like a regional airport. In the city there is no Starbucks café, no McDonalds, no dazzling skyscrapers of international banks and corporations. Iran is isolated - especially economically.

(imago images / Christian Ohde) Iran expert: Sanctions have massively damaged Iran
Iran is still interested in the nuclear deal, said Iran expert Adnan Tabatabai in the Dlf. Whether the agreement can be reactivated depends on the USA and Iran, the influence of the EU is limited.

Review: In 2018, US President Donald Trump will withdraw from the international nuclear agreement and gradually issue sanctions. "These severe sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior," Trump said at the time. Two areas hit the country particularly hard: On the one hand, oil exports collapse massively. On the other hand, the international money transfer is almost paralyzed. Trump's sanctions hardly leave any loopholes for resourceful Iranian business people. To this end, the US President is also putting companies in the EU under pressure.

Trump's sanctions and their effects

Cyrus Razzaghi runs a consulting office in Tehran. When the nuclear agreement was signed in 2015, he could hardly save himself from orders from Europe. Today most of its customers come from Turkey and Asia: "Unfortunately, Europe played a very passive role in Trump's times. Even during the toughest days under the Trump administration, some American companies did business here. One wonders if American Companies can do this through third countries, why can't Europeans do it too? "

When Iran demands that the other partners in the nuclear agreement adhere to their commitments, it also means the European ones: France, Great Britain and Germany. They had tried in vain to set up the Instex exchange system to enable trade to bypass the US sanctions.

Iran's new oil deal with China

At the end of last month, Iran signed a 25-year cooperation agreement with China. Tehran supplies oil at an affordable price. In return, Beijing is investing $ 400 billion. Cyrus Razzaghi explains: "It's about security issues, economic development. Iran has decided that it doesn't want to wait forever for the nuclear deal or for a breakthrough with the West. The country's development cannot wait." The agreement should also be seen as a move to show before the talks in Vienna that your back is not against the wall.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: The religious leader has banned his negotiators in Vienna from having direct talks with the USA (imago / Rouzbeh Fouladi)

Since the beginning of the month, the remaining partners in the agreement, China, Russia, France, Great Britain and Germany, have been discussing the conditions under which the US will return. Chamenei has banned his negotiators in Vienna from talking to them directly. He also pretends that Washington must first lift all sanctions. Then his country will again fully meet its obligations. One year after Trump's exit, Iran will gradually begin violating points of the agreement in 2019. For example, it enriches uranium beyond permissible limits. This creates bargaining ground for himself. Iran acts step by step - like a chess player. And Khamenei makes it clear that there is no hurry.

Presidential elections in June

But that probably only applies to part of the Iranian leadership. Because the moderately conservative government around President Hassan Ruhani and Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif wants to post another success before the end of their term in office. In mid-June there are presidential elections with a good chance for the hardliners. You have always spoken out against the nuclear deal. And Zarif warns that after the elections it could take half a year for the new government to be able to negotiate.

But the pressure also comes from the people in Iran. They finally want a perspective again and are counting on the new US President Joe Biden, also the Tehran businessman Soheil Torkan: "We all hoped that Trump's successor would be one of the Democrats, someone who is on the side of Iran , a familiar face. Someone who knows the nuclear deal and wants to return to it. And there is nothing politically against it. Biden's choice was the best one could have imagined. "

Expert: lengthy negotiations with the USA

The tenor after the first two rounds of talks in Vienna is largely positive. Despite the time pressure until summer, it is not only the USA that is expecting lengthy negotiations. For Tehran's political expert Ali Bigdeli, it is unlikely that one will simply return to the identical 2015 nuclear deal. The conditions in the region have changed too much, especially with regard to Israel: "If we want to continue enriching uranium, we have to expect Israel to react. It has bases and could take action against our nuclear facilities. Then the Americans would Surely support Israelis anyway, even under Biden. "

. (picture alliance / Flashpic / Jens Krick) Lambsdorff: Both sides are interested in progress The FDP foreign politician Alexander Graf Lambsdorff sees the revival of the nuclear talks as a positive sign. The situation between the US and Iran is tense, but both have an interest in making progress.

Under Trump, the balance of power in the Middle East shifted to the detriment of Iran. On his initiative, Israel and several Arab states are drawing closer together through a normalization agreement. Ali Bigdeli explains, with a view to the Iranian missile program, for example: "The Americans are calling for various reforms in the 2015 agreement. They also want Iran to respect human rights, not interfere with countries in the region and no longer support so-called terrorist groups. That's why they want to Iran will not enter into direct negotiations with the United States. It will be difficult for Iran to somehow respond to such expectations. " President Ruhani categorically rejects this.

Tehran's involvement in the region is one of Washington's main criticisms. Saudi Arabia has been Iran's adversary in the Middle East for decades. However, recently there have been offers from Tehran to get closer again. Another move, one of many since the Islamic Revolution in the late 1970s.

The history of the Iranian nuclear weapons program

The Iranian nuclear weapons program has decades of history. As early as 1984, Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the development of nuclear weapons. For many years the regime in Tehran managed to keep this program secret from the international public. In the 1990s, the US first became aware of planned Iranian-Russian cooperation on Iran's nuclear armament.

In 2002, an Iranian resistance group informed the previously unsuspecting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the mullah regime was in the process of building a complete nuclear fuel cycle. At the same time, the opposition group named secret locations for the Iranian nuclear facilities. National Public Radio's nuclear expert Geoff Brumfield explains what had happened: "From the late 1980s to the early 2000s, Iran had done two things: the country had acquired nuclear material, both civilian and military At the same time, Iran is working on plans for nuclear weapons. "

Obama's international coalition in 2015

After taking office, US President Barack Obama, who was elected in 2009, formed an international coalition that was supposed to move Iran to negotiations. A dense regime of sanctions is set up, which is economically difficult for Iran. It has long been a goal of American foreign policy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Obama said in August 2015 after the agreement was signed. "This is a breakthrough. And with this agreement we have achieved it. It prevents Iran from getting nuclear weapons. In return, Iran receives relief from the sanctions that we have systematically built against Iran."

In 2015, US President Obama defends the nuclear deal with Iran in front of the press (picture alliance / dpa / Michael Reynolds)

Germany, France, Great Britain and the USA are involved in the negotiations, but also Russia and China, which until then had often protected Iran. The so-called "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action" is intended to drastically minimize the risk of Iran developing into a nuclear weapon state. Iran is committed to mining large amounts of enriched uranium and carrying out extensive controls by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In return, the economic sanctions will gradually be lifted. What does not succeed is to contain Iran's aggressive regional policy. The long-range missile building program is also not part of the negotiations. Critics of the nuclear deal criticize this as well as its time limit of a maximum of 20 years.

Biden's new willingness

After the presidential election in the USA, a new player appeared on the international stage in January 2017. Donald Trump disliked the lengthy forging of international alliances and treaties that, in his view, only hindered and unnecessarily restricted the US's ability to negotiate. Donald Trump had terminated the agreement with no alternative. He left a pile of broken glass.

With Joseph Biden, a president took office in January 2021 who sees the US allies not as a burden but as an asset. In contrast to his predecessor, Biden sees the Iran Agreement as an important building block for arms control. The new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is ready for negotiations: "If Iran fully complies with its obligations under the agreement, we would too. And we would use this together with our allies and partners to achieve a more stable and long-term agreement to reach."

(imago / Eduard Bopp) Kermani on the nuclear deal: "Don't isolate a problem and think that Iran will be stable." Donald Trump, as US President, lost an enormous amount of trust in Iran and on the nuclear deal, "said journalist Navid Kermani in the Dlf . Joe Biden now has to restore that.

The role of Israel

For Israel, an agreement would be of very special importance: Benjamin Netanyahu has been warning years of the danger posed by Tehran's nuclear program. Hardly a political speech by the Israeli long-term prime minister goes by without this warning. When Israel celebrated National Holocaust Remembrance Day in early April and remembered six million Jews murdered by the Nazis, Netanyahu also reminded his compatriots what, in his view, were bad nuclear agreements and he had a message for some of the signatory states: "The History teaches us that agreements with such regimes are worthless. I tell our good friends that an agreement with Iran that opens the way to nuclear weapons for someone who threatens us with annihilation will not bind us. We have only one obligation : To prevent those who want to destroy us. "

Benjamin Netanyahu tried to torpedo the negotiations on the nuclear agreement, then criticized the conclusion of the agreement in 2015 and finally successfully urged US President Trump to withdraw from the agreement. Israel's prime minister, like large parts of the country's military and political leadership, is convinced that Iran is striving for nuclear weapons and never completely stopped its efforts even after the Vienna Accords were signed. In 2018, Netanyahu presented a so-called secret nuclear archive of the Iranians, which the Israeli secret service Mossad had procured. In Netanyahu's view, the documents clearly show that Iran plans to develop nuclear weapons after the expiry of the nuclear agreement.

Netanyahu is betting on sanctions against Iran

According to the criticism from Jerusalem, the agreement only postpones possible Iranian nuclear weapons efforts without preventing them. Israel also wants the Iranian missile program to be limited and Iranian influence to be contained in the region in general and in Israel's neighboring states in particular. Danny Danon was Israel's ambassador to the United Nations until last year. Danon strictly rejects a possible revival of the nuclear agreement in its current form: "We know the agreement well. It was a bad agreement in 2015. Today, in 2021, it is even worse. The central issues are not addressed. We know the most important ones Topics: uranium enrichment, inspections, tests of ballistic missiles, support for terrorism in the region and I would like to add a fifth point: In nine years we would no longer have an agreement and Iran can do what it wants with consent the international community. "

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (picture alliance / dpa | Ilia Yefimovich)

Benjamin Netanyahu relies on sanctions against Iran and hopes for regime change. The new US administration simply does not believe in this concept, summarizes analyst Ofer Zalzberg from the Kelman Institute for Conflict Research. Israel’s foreign minister is more likely to be heard by the Biden government than Prime Minister Netanyahu: "They listen very carefully to what Foreign Minister Ashkenazi or the military leadership say. They listen to proposals that they consider realistic. Netanyahu’s position in Washington becomes incompatible with a realistic strategy seen. They hear him, but they don't listen seriously. "

Israel's break with the US Democrats

The relationship between Netanyahu and the US Democrats is not a good one. That is now becoming clear. For decades, Israeli governments maintained neutrality in dealing with US party politics and had good relations with Republicans and Democrats. Benjamin Netanyahu broke with this line and took a very one-sided side for the Republicans and for Donald Trump. Now that Trump is voted out of office, this is putting a strain on relations between Jerusalem and Washington. Israel reserves the right to take its own steps against Iran - this includes cyberattacks against nuclear facilities, which are also attributed to the Israeli media, its own security authorities and the army.

For years, the Israeli air force has also been flying attacks in Syria on targets assigned to Iran or its allies. Israel is said to be responsible for the murder of several Iranian nuclear scientists in recent years, and the government does not deny that there. There are also mutual attacks in shipping. Amos Yadlin, long-time head of the Israeli military intelligence service and now director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, spoke of a war on Israeli parliamentary television: "It is a covert war that is waged up to a certain threshold that no one wants to cross. That The problem with this strategy is that one side could make a mistake, cross the threshold, and force the other side to act. "

Is a revived nuclear deal coming sooner than expected?

Israel will continue to perceive Iran as a strategic threat, but apart from a few acts of sabotage, it will do nothing fundamentally disruptive without its most important partner, the US. But unlike in the case of the Israeli government, it currently appears that all other parties involved are clearly interested in a new agreement.

Iran is economically weakened and the population is dissatisfied. The agreements with China and Russia cannot provide a sufficient substitute for a restored participation of Iran in the world market. The US, in turn, has an interest in containing one of the greatest strategic problems in the Middle East for at least the next ten to 15 years. The Europeans want the region to be stabilized and the dangers to be minimized.

It is far from clear whether and how an agreement will be reached. But it could be that a revived nuclear deal with Iran will come about much faster than the first attempt.