As I write this on March 22, the Iran nuclear deal (known by its acronym JCPOA) seems likely to be restored. The Biden regime, desperate to check the oil price surge set off by its new mega-sanctions on Russia, appears ready to capitulate on the key issues:
*Taking Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) off the list of sanctioned terrorist entities.
*Dropping demands for limits on Iran’s defensive missile program.
*Dropping demands that Iran stop supporting its regional allies.
*Dropping demands that Iran dismantle its advanced centrifuges. Tehran will stop them and put them under lock as guarantee that the US will uphold the agreement.
*Removing all sanctions against Iran’s economy, including those ostensibly not related to JCPOA.
*Implementing the sanctions removal process quickly and verifiably.
*Accepting Iran’s demand that the US pay some form of reparations (even if in a disguised form to limit the US domestic political damage) for illegally leaving the deal under Donald Trump.
Not only has the US apparently agreed to the above-delineated Iranian position, it also gave Russia written guarantees that anti-Russia sanctions will not be enforced with regard to Russia’s trade with Iran. Those guarantees were needed to revive the JCPOA because Russia, alongside the other P5+1 countries, is a signatory to the agreement.
Iran’s position has been consistent and reasonable. But the US had stubbornly refused to respect Iran’s red lines, and kept making impossible demands, until events in Ukraine, and subsequent US sanctions on Russia, triggered the current crisis in global energy supplies.
Before Trump tore up the JCPOA in May 2018 and imposed draconian sanctions on Iran, the country was producing 3.8 million barrels of oil per day. The sanctions knocked that figure to below 2 million barrels, after which it slowly rose to today’s 2.4 million barrels. Restoring JCPOA should immediately raise Iranian production to close to 3 million barrels, which will continue increasing to reach over 3.5 million barrels by the end of the year. Much of that extra production will go to Europe, which has been hard-hit by US sanctions cutting off Russian energy supplies.
An additional factor pushing the US to change its position was Saudi crown prince Bin Salman’s admirable refusal to let Biden threaten and cajole him into ramping up Saudi oil production—coupled with an announcement that Saudi oil sales to China would no longer be denominated in dollars. (I don’t use the words “Bin Salman” and “admirable” in the same sentence very often, but as the saying goes, one must give the devil his due.)
The Saudis told Biden to go to fly a kite. The Emiratis echoed that sentiment and then rolled out their red carpet for Syrian president Bashar al-Asad despite vociferous US protests. The Americans apparently realized that the Muslim East could no longer be simplistically divided into two teams: slavish US puppets (like the Saudis and Emiratis) versus evil enemies who don’t follow US orders (like Iran).
When the slavish puppet regimes stop following orders, Biden’s brain trust reasoned, it’s time to roll out a more nuanced regional policy. The cornerstone of that policy, it appears, will be a revived JCPOA.
Will a new JCPOA be good for Iran? It will certainly provide much-needed short-term relief for Iran’s economy, which has suffered under the worst and longest-running sanctions in history, and then suffered even more during the past two years of the COVID-19 bioweapon epidemic.
But Iranians who oppose returning to the JCPOA have one unassailable argument: How do we know the US won’t tear up the agreement again whenever the political or strategic situation dictates? Specifically, given Republican opposition to the JCPOA, and the likelihood that Republicans will return to power in Congress this fall and the White House in 2024, what will stop them from doing what Trump did and reneging on America’s solemn pledge?
The answer, of course, is “nothing.” The US, as Russian president Putin famously said, rules the “Empire of Lies” and is “non-agreement-capable.” Nothing the Americans say or sign can ever be trusted. The solemn US pledge not to expand NATO even one inch eastward was broken shortly after it was made. The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) prohibitions did not stop the US from developing COVID-19 and then unleashing it, most likely in a biological attack targeting the economies of China and Iran.
Indeed, mendacity and total untrustworthiness has become a US national characteristic. American authorities lie outrageously about their own political assassinations (including the Kennedys, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Paul Wellstone, and dozens of others) and false flag war-trigger events (Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin, Kuwaiti baby incubators, 9/11). American media and government lies about the Muslim East are only now being matched by equally outrageous lies about the war in Ukraine. What is the use of making agreements with pathological liars?
So Iranian critics of the JCPOA have a point. But since a return to JCPOA will benefit Iran in the short term, their opponents say, why not sign the agreement, reap those benefits, and then find ways to limit or negate any damage that could come from a likely US re-withdrawal in 2024?
Iran can prepare for another US abrogation of the agreement in several ways. First, it can offer discounts to oil buyers who pay outside of the dollar-denominated, US-controlled SWIFT system. By helping push global trade bypassing SWIFT, a process that is already well underway, Iran can limit the damage it will incur when the US reneges on its agreement and re-imposes (increasingly toothless) sanctions.
Second, Iran can accelerate its nuclear sciences program even while adhering to JCPOA. Iran’s ever-stronger cadre of nuclear scientists and infrastructure might deter the US from following Trump’s example and ripping up the deal again. When the next US president, likely a Republican, sits down with his National Security Council and says “my base, and my crazy Zionist billionaire donors, want me to shred the JCPOA,” his advisors will say “that’s not a good idea, because Iran is now so advanced in nuclear science and technology that they can respond in a way that you won’t like.”
At this point the president will say, “Is there any military option?”
And that’s why the third pro-active measure Iran should take to prepare for possible future US withdrawal from the JCPOA is so important: Iran needs to continue beefing up its military deterrent in general and its rocket program in particular. If the hypothetical future Republican president is told “Sorry, there is no viable military option, since Iran could inflict unacceptable damage on us in response to our attack,” then peace will prevail, and the JCPOA might even survive.
Given the looming global economic crisis arising from the Ukraine war and subsequent US sanctions on Russian oil and wheat—and the disruption to Ukraine’s wheat production—Iran has every reason to want to cushion its citizens against further deprivation and suffering caused by the reckless and grossly immoral behavior of the Empire of Lies. Reviving the JCPOA, even though it requires signing an agreement with an untrustworthy adversary, may be the least-worst of available options.