By Arab News
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh*
Although the ongoing negotiations to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal involve seven parties — China, Russia, the UK, France, the US, Iran and Germany — the two essential players in the talks are America and the Islamic Republic.
The Biden administration ought to be cognizant of the fact that what the Iranian regime really cares about is for the US government to lift its sanctions on Tehran’s energy, banking, and shipping sectors, as well as on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Quds Force.
In other words, as long as the US is not on board with the nuclear deal, the stances of the other parties do not really matter to Iran to a significant degree. After all, the US plays a key role in the global financial system.
If Washington’s sanctions on the Islamic Republic remain in place, the Iranian regime cannot profit from the benefits of any new nuclear deal due to the fact that many corporations and companies will not be willing to trade or deal with Tehran for fear of repercussions. These include jeopardizing their business in the US, risking their access to major global financial institutions and possibly even being sanctioned by the US Department of Justice.
It is worth noting that the US equity market capitalization is about 50 times larger than that of the Islamic Republic. While Iran’s equity market is believed to be worth about $1 trillion, the US’ value is nearly $49 trillion, representing some 41 percent of the global equity market cap.
As a result, the Biden administration should be aware that the ball is in Washington’s court, not Iran’s. If the White House truly wants to reach a permanent and effective nuclear deal with the Iranian government, which will curb its nuclear advancement and address the threat that the regime poses to the Middle East, it should seek the approval of Congress.
In addition, the US should refrain from lifting any sanctions on Tehran that are not linked to its nuclear program, such as those related to its human rights violations, ballistic missile program, terrorism, and the IRGC and Quds Force.
Although it has been reported that the Biden administration will not be removing the IRGC from the US’ list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations after all, Iran envoy Robert Malley unfortunately suggested during a Senate hearing last week that the IRGC’s removal from the terrorist list was not totally off the table. He said: “We’d made clear to Iran that if they wanted any concession on something that was unrelated to the JCPOA — like the FTO designation — we needed something reciprocal from them that would address our concerns.” But he declined to clarify what the administration is asking for from the Iranian regime in order to delist the IRGC.
Malley did suggest that the Biden administration would submit a final draft of the nuclear deal to Congress for review. Nevertheless, this is not adequate, as the White House ought to make it clear to US lawmakers, as well as the Iranian leaders, that it will not forge ahead with any nuclear deal until Congress officially approves it. If we recall, the Obama administration said that Congress would get a chance to review the original 2015 nuclear deal, but Barack Obama ultimately went ahead and struck a deal with the Iranian regime without approval from the Capitol.
The JCPOA was unfortunately finalized through an executive order, not through congressional approval, allowing Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, to rescind it without consulting lawmakers. If the same happens this time, it will most likely fall apart again. In March, 49 US senators warned in a joint statement: “By every indication, the Biden administration appears to have given away the store. The administration appears to have agreed to lift sanctions that were not even placed on Iran for its nuclear activities in the first place, but instead because of its ongoing support for terrorism and its gross abuses of human rights… A major agreement that does not have strong bipartisan support in Congress will not survive.”
If Biden wants any updated nuclear deal with Iran to survive, he must put it up for approval in Congress.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh