The Professor of Government and International Affairs at George Mason University, Edward Rhodes, said in an exclusive interview with ILNA that there is zero possibility of an agreement before the U.S. midterm elections in November. The window of opportunity for reaching an agreement in 2022 closed months ago.
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1. Iran has announced that in order to prevent a repeat of the 2018 incident (Trump withdrawing from JCPOA), the United States must give a guarantee for the withdrawal of the parties from this agreement. How reasonable do you think this demand for Iran is?
One of the principal stumbling blocks to negotiating a return to the JCPOA is that neither side has any plausibly acceptable way to guarantee that it will abide by the terms of the agreement should the situation change in the future. There is no practical way for the United States to guarantee that, if the United States believes Iran is falling short of its commitments, it will not reimpose sanctions.
Any agreement to return to the JCPOA requires an element of trust on both sides. For different but parallel reasons, neither side is currently inclined to trust the other very much. Trust is something that is best developed slowly and incrementally. The tragedy of the last 18 months is that practical trust-building steps have not been undertaken.
2. Given the current situation and statement issued by European countries what is the prediction of efforts put into reviving the JCPOA?
Nothing in this world is ever certain. It is, however, as certain as anything can possibly be that there will NOT be an agreement to revive the JCPOA before November. Frankly, the odds are low and decreasing that there will be an agreement to revive the JCPOA reached even after that date. But whatever slim hope there might be for eventually returning to the JCPOA, there is zero possibility of an agreement before the U.S. midterm elections in November. The window of opportunity for reaching an agreement in 2022 closed months ago.
What needs to be understood is that the JCPOA was not popular in the United States even at the time it was signed. No one was enthusiastic about it, not even its strongest backers. The most that advocates of the JCPOA were willing to claim was that the agreement was probably, at the margin, a little less bad than having no agreement. To the extent that the attentive American public had an opinion, that opinion was probably even less supportive of the JCPOA than that of American decision-makers.
The passage of time has, both for American decision-makers and for the American public significantly reduced the net attractiveness of the agreement. The benefits created by the agreement have, from the American perspective, decreased substantially. The length of time still covered by the agreement is now shorter, and the progress toward a possible nuclear weapons capability made by Iran during the intervening years has rendered the restrictions substantially less meaningful. From an American perspective, however, the costs of the agreement have, if anything, grown larger.
At this point, even an American government that was convinced that the benefits of returning to the JCPOA exceeded the costs would find it extraordinarily difficult to make a convincing case to the American people in favor of returning to the JCPOA.
With the American public deeply divided between Republicans and Democrats and the level of partisan animosity currently at very high levels, this close to the midterm elections no president, of either political party, would sign an agreement returning to the JCPOA. In fact, no president, of either political party, would even seriously consider doing so. Possibly, with time, a majority of the American people might be convinced that returning to the JCPOA, however bad that might be, is better than not-returning to the JCPOA. But with less than two months until the midterm elections, there is not sufficient time for an administration to make this argument to a highly skeptical American public.
Even without the upcoming elections, though, it would be very difficult for any American government to move forward with a return-to-the-JCPOA agreement at the present time.
3. In your opinion, what are the effects of reaching and not reaching an agreement on the energy market? In case of not reaching an agreement, what are the implications for Europe given the fact that it has lost its major energy market (Russia)?
The return of Iran to full participation in the global economic system -- including, but not limited to, energy markets -- is something we all look forward to it is in the best interests of the Iranian people and people around the world. It is also true that Europe currently faces significant shortages of natural gas, and will in all likelihood face significant shortages for the next several years. These, however, are two separate and largely unconnected issues.
The immediate problem facing Europe is its dependence on Russian natural gas delivered through pipelines from Russia. Without Russian-produced natural gas, there is indeed a current shortage of natural gas in world markets, but the immediate and more binding constraint is that natural gas can be transported only through pipelines or in liquified form, and Europe currently lacks sufficient liquified natural gas infrastructure to import the gas it needs from larger global markets.endNewsMessage1