By INU staff
INU- If the latest extension of nuclear negotiations does not quickly lead to success there is a good chance that far from lifting sanctions the US will authorize the imposition of new ones. Politico indicates that Republicans and some Democrats are becoming increasingly skeptical of Western optimism about the negotiating process, like that that has been expressed by Secretary of State John Kerry.
The contrasting perspectives reflect differing views about the status of sanctions. According to Politico, the Obama administration believes that it has ample time to negotiate because the Iranian economy has already been hobbled by sanctions and can only improve significantly after Iran makes a deal. Obama’s opponents agree that the sanctions have been effective, but they are more concerned with the fact that that effectiveness is eroding under the terms of limited relief that have now been extended for an additional seven months of talks.
There is some dispute about the extent of that relief’s effects. Bloomberg provides a thorough analysis of this issue, focusing on the administration’s recent claim that Iranian non-oil exports during the first six months of the year were worth more than two billion dollars less than had been expected. Others suggest that the administration is underestimating or misrepresenting the actual effects. Roubini Global Economics estimates that the regime received 11 billion dollars’ worth of direct benefits from sanctions relief in the first half of the year.
Non-oil exports account for a portion of this, but Iran’s economy is still entirely dominated by petroleum and even the Obama administration agrees that its crude oil and condensate exports are up compared to last year. Those exports are ostensibly limited under the terms of the interim agreement with the P5+1, but the US has been lax in enforcing that provision and Iran appears to have consistently broken it.
However, Commodity Online anticipates that the Obama administration will roughly maintain the policy of preventing the growth of Iranian oil exports, knowing that Congress would otherwise react with an even stronger push for a new round of sanctions. But the site also speculates about a major growth in those exports under the terms of a future agreement, suggesting that it would lower oil prices and have adverse effects on other OPEC countries, including US allies in the Middle East.
Of course, at the same time that there are international partnerships that stand to be affected by the resolution of the nuclear/sanctions issue, there are also international partnerships that could potentially contribute greatly to resolving that and other issues. The Christian Science Monitor says that despite this week’s failure to reach an agreement, one of the positive effects of the negotiations thus far has been the development of a unified European voice on Iran policy.
The article argues that the European Union’s External Affairs Service, represented at negotiations by Catherine Ashton, has proven its potential to be effective in spite of early dismissals of the relatively new organization. The Monitor notes that the EAS has not yet applied its efforts to broader issues related to Iran’s support for terrorism and its human rights violations, much less to issues in other areas of the world. But supporters of the EU foreign policy arm nonetheless feel that it may have a role to play in these issues, on the basis of Ashton’s prominent role in talks thus far.
But the question still remains as to what is the proper outcome for that unified European voice to push for with regard to the nuclear issue. An op-ed by Georgetown University professor Matthew Kroenig published in the Marshfield News Herald on Tuesday gives one suggestion as to what position the US and Europe ought to take. That is to reject the prospect of further extensions after this point and to instead take the latest deadline as an opportunity to put more pressure on Iran and to insist that sanctions will return to full force if there is no deal by that time.
Such a rejection of further extensions is a position that is embraced by many opponents of the Iranian regime. This certainly includes the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which released a statement on Tuesday quoting Mrs. Maryam Rajavi as saying that prolonging the nuclear negotiations only gives Iran more time to bring the world to the precipice of a major security crisis vis-à-vis ISIS, Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East region.