By Arab News
By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh*
The fact that the Iranian regime continues to negotiate with the P5+1 world powers (the UK, Russia, China, France and the US, plus Germany) concerning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal reveals that the regime wants to revive it. A new nuclear agreement would bring several critical benefits for Iran.
First of all, a nuclear deal would boost the Iranian regime’s ballistic missile program. In order to keep the Islamic Republic in the nuclear deal, the world powers would likely be reluctant to hold the theocratic establishment accountable for its ballistic missile violations — and there is a precedent for such an assumption.
Tehran accelerated its missile activities and tests after the original nuclear deal was reached in 2015. Basedon detailed intelligence obtained from inside the clerical establishment in Iran — specifically internal reports obtained from the Defense Ministry and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps by the National Council of Resistance of Iran — Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tasked the IRGC’s Aerospace Force with executing this mandate. The opposition group verified the locations of 42 centers involved in the production, testing and launching of missiles by the IRGC. Fifteen of these sites formed part of the regime’s missile manufacturing network, includingseveral factories related to a missile industry group. “The IRGC’s Aerospace Force is responsible for the regime’s missiles program and the scope of the program is much more extensive than what it was previously perceived,” saidthe NCRI’s Alireza Jafarzadeh.
However, at the time, the UN Security Council disregarded Iran’s ballistic missiles advancements, even though the nuclear deal stated that Iran should not undertake any suchactivity “until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day or until the date on which the IAEA submits a report confirming the Broader Conclusion, whichever is earlier.”
It is worth noting that Iran’s ballistic missile capability is one of the most critical pillars of Tehran’s national security policy. Aside from managing the country’s nuclear program and supporting its proxies, the IRGC’s third important program is its ballistic missile program. Tehran possessesthe largest ballistic missile program in the Middle East and no country, other than Iran, has acquired long-range ballistic missiles before obtaining nuclear weapons.
The second benefit of a new nuclear deal is that it would lift the financial strain on the Iranian regime, as sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s energy, financial and shipping sectors would be removed. Tehran’s economic woes began after the nuclear deal fell apart under the Trump administration. The regime is currently facing one of the worst budget deficits in its four-decade history. This deficit has increased inflation and further devalued the Iranian currency.
With a renegotiated nuclear deal in place, Tehran would be able to take full advantage of its plentiful natural resources. It has the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves and fourth-largest proven crude oil reserves, and the sale of these resources accountsfor more than 80 percent of its export revenue.
Thirdly, a nuclear deal would also be a victory for Iran’s militia and terror groups. The 2015 agreement allowed the flow of billions of dollars into the Iranian regime’s treasury, thereby providing the funding that the IRGC needed to escalate its military adventurism in the region. This included financing, arming and supporting its proxy terror and militia groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. In the wake of the nuclear agreement, Iran’s meddling, interventions in the region and funding of militia groups escalated. Iran also increased its deliveries of weapons to militias, as the number of ballistic missiles deployedby Iran’s proxies rose to an unprecedented level.
But when the nuclear deal was scuttled in 2018, some Iranian authorities publicly announcedthat they did not have enough money to pay their mercenaries abroad. For example, in an interview with the state-run Ofogh television network, Mostazafan Foundation head Parviz Fattah stated: “I was at the IRGC Cooperative Foundation. Haj Qassem (Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force who was killed by a US drone strike) came and told me he did not have money to pay the salaries of the Fatemiyoun (Afghan mercenaries). He said that these are our Afghan brothers, and he asked for help from people like us.”
Finally, with a return to the nuclear deal, the regime would gain global legitimacy, making it even more difficult to hold Tehran’s leaders accountable for their malign behavior and terrorist activity.
In conclusion, a renegotiated nuclear deal would bring several important advantages to the Iranian regime, while destabilizing and posing a threat to the security of the region.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh