As the Iranian regime finds itself ensnared in a web of domestic and international challenges, it has turned to a calculated policy of appeasement as a potential lifeline. The impending arrival of September and October bears witness to a regime desperately seeking to navigate through turbulent waters, both at home and on the global stage. At the heart of its efforts lies the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), a pivotal agreement that holds the key to the regime’s survival.
The regime’s predicament is multifaceted. Domestically, widespread protests in Iran in September 2022 have injected fresh uncertainty into the regime’s stability. Internationally, its entanglement in Russia’s war against Ukraine has added to the complexity. Faced with these challenges, Ali Khamenei, the Iran regime’s Supreme Leader, appears to be more concerned than ever about the prospects of sealing a new deal with the West, particularly the United States.
The release of frozen Iranian regime funds and the exchange of prisoners have raised suspicions that these actions are steps toward a new agreement between the Iranian regime and the West, particularly the United States, regarding Iran’s nuclear program.
Some Western officials have suggested that the Biden administration may have secretly agreed to turn a blind eye to the sale of Iran’s sanctioned oil in exchange for limitations on Iran’s uranium reserves. This was indirectly confirmed by the spokesperson of the Iran regime’s foreign ministry when he referred to “removing the cruel sanctions of the United States.”
There has been an attempt to downplay the importance of these agreements by suggesting that they were crucial to Khamenei, only after the release of the Iranian regime’s funds. However, a closer look at the developments and the deadlock that occurred during negotiations in Vienna, especially after the protests in Iran in September 2022 and Khamenei’s involvement in Russia’s war against Ukraine, suggests that Khamenei is deeply concerned about shutting the door to negotiations with the West, particularly the United States.
This concern could lead to increased hostility and the referral of the Iran regime’s nuclear case to the Security Council, potentially activating the trigger mechanism process. Therefore, it can be argued that returning to the negotiating table is more critical for Khamenei than the release of blocked funds.
In other words, Khamenei appears to be focused on reducing conflicts with the West in the coming months, especially as the next meeting of the Council of Governors and the approaching sunset clause loom large, using a policy of interaction with the United States to prevent the trigger mechanism from being activated and sanctions from continuing.
In line with this conflict reduction strategy, Western media outlets have reported a three-stage oral agreement between the regime and the US government, where Khamenei has consented to slowing down and reducing the amount of uranium enrichment.
However, the opposition from the Republican-controlled Congress poses a significant challenge to the Biden administration’s ability to reach any agreement.
Additionally, the deployment of American military forces to the Persian Gulf to counteract potential maritime threats from Iran, as well as recent incidents involving Iranian oil tanker discharges, underscore the ongoing tensions between the United States and Iran.
As we enter September, the quarterly meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency becomes crucial. This meeting is expected to address key issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, especially as we approach the implementation of the sunset clause and the potential lifting of certain JCPOA sanctions, such as Iran’s missile sanctions, in October.
The scheduled lifting of Iran’s missile sanctions in October, despite Iran’s significant violations in this regard and concerns about the transfer of missiles and military equipment to Russia for use in the Ukraine conflict, has sparked international apprehension.
The Iranian regime and its senior leaders, along with affiliated media outlets, have openly expressed concerns that the West and the United States may not allow the lifting of Iranian regime missile sanctions.
While some parties to the JCPOA agreement believe that it is too late to return to the negotiations that were halted in July 2022, most observers agree that the regime faces a daunting task in achieving the sanctions’ removal. Khamenei’s actions in recent years, including expanding uranium enrichment, have further complicated the nuclear issue and seemingly led to an impasse.
Considering the upcoming Council of Governors meeting, the approaching sunset clause, and the broader context of Iran’s nuclear case, Khamenei appears to have challenging months ahead.