A recent Brookings Institution report indicates that the European Union seems to want a deal more than anyone else, partly on account of the potential economic benefits it believes would be made available. But the same report notes that the EU is not interested in securing a deal at any cost. Thus, the negative indicators coming from the Iranian regime could still derail most of the political will to press on with the talks.
But Europe and the United States are certainly not the only parties that have both positive and negative outlooks on the negotiations. It may be less apparent in most instances, but other Middle Eastern and Asian powers also speculate that the success or failure of nuclear talks may impact their own relations with the Islamic Republic.
An article in the Middle East and North Africa news source Zawya details some speculations about the impact that negotiation might have on the political process in Lebanon, where Iranian-backed paramilitary Hezbollah is widely regarded as wielding about as much political influence as the actual government. This has led to difficulties in electing a new president from among the strongly divided camp of sitting Lebanese politicians. Hezbollah and its rivals must choose a consensus candidate and have failed to do so on 15 occasions since May.
Some in Lebanon expect that the extension of nuclear talks will lead at last to mild concessions from Hezbollah’s handler in Tehran, which will in turn lead to greater dialogue between Iranian-backed and Saudi-backed factions inside Lebanon. But others agree with American Republicans and critics of the talks who see the extension as the continuation of a stalemate and the extension of a tenuous balance of power.
While it may be possible for Iran and the United States to maintain that balance of power indefinitely, critics fear that the further extension of talks play into Iran’s hands and allow the regime to gather regional power while weakening international support for sanctions.
In the past those sanctions have been cited as a reason for Pakistan’s caution about completing a joint pipeline project with Iran. The Islamic Republic has been placing considerable pressure on Pakistan to complete the project quickly and an article in the Daily Times suggests that at least some elements of the Pakistani government may be relenting.
On Thursday, Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan unilaterally declared that the pipeline would be completed during the tenure of the current Pakistani government. He also claimed that the governments of the two nations were working hard to expand economic and trade relations between them. But this is somewhat contradicted by the fact that Iranian-Pakistani relations have been noticeably troubled for years, with some Pakistani officials balking at Iranian attempts to pressure its neighbor to cooperate on Iran-initiated projects.
But regional economic pressure does not only go in one direction with respect to Iran. Observers of the nuclear talks and the broader situation frequently look to Iran’s crucially important oil exports for context. An article in the India Times indicates that exports to Asia fell to below one million barrels per day in October as a result of seasonal demand fluctuations but are nonetheless higher than they were during the same period last year.
However, global oil prices remain low and some analysts expect that this may weaken the Iranian regime and prompt it to finally make some concessions, especially if it is put under pressure by the threat of new sanctions. If, on the other hand, sanctions are fully removed, the regime claims that it will be able to double its oil exports within two months.
Though sanctions are recognized as having been effective at bringing Iran to the negotiating table, they have been undermined at times by the willingness of some foreign governments and institutions to help the regime find ways of profiting in spite of the freeze of a ss ets in foreign banks. Reuters reports that a new scheme of this sort appears to be emerging not from one of the usual suspects like Russia, but rather from India.
Essar Group plans to export steel to Iran and then, if permitted by the Indian government, to access Iranian oil revenue frozen in foreign banks in order to pay for the deal. The arrangement would effectively be a bartering agreement like those that Iran has made with Russia and other partners, but is different enough that Essar spokespeople have explicitly denied that the scheme entails barter of steel for oil.