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Why Iran Would Not Leave The Nuclear Deal

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said during a lecture at Chatham House in London in February that "Iran will leave the nuclear deal if there are no benefits for Tehran in staying in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and if the banks continue to refuse cooperating with the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Just days ago Araqchi reiterated, "The benefits of JCPOA for Iran are next to nil."

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had also said in an interview: "We have a right to leave the JCPOA, but there are other options too, and we should see how those options can meet the interests of our people."

In this case, it is not illogical to think that if Iran withdraws from the nuclear deal with the West, one needs to stress that in non-democratic regimes, serving the people's interests do not appear to be the government's priority. So, Zarif is probably talking about the interests of the Iranian government. The Iranian political establishment's priority is "surviving" at any price.

Furthermore, Zarif represents the government or what he calls the political system, rather than representing the people.

Other Iranian officials have spoken about leaving JCPOA in more radical terms. For instance, Iran's Security Chief Ali Shamkhani said in May that "If Trump fails to continue implementing the JCPOA for any reason, this would be tantamount to the deal's collapse, and we should not restrain ourselves any longer."

The course of events, however have proven so far that Iran will restrain itself because it does not have a defined and stable strategy in its foreign relations and would react differently to various events depending on how powerful the other side is.

Iran's nuclear Chief Ali Akbar Salehi has warned that Europe's inability to fulfil its commitments will have undesirable consequences. However, he did not explain whether this means that Iran would return to the Pre-JCPOA level of uranium enrichment, or would continue its ambitious missile program with renewed rigor? Or maybe Tehran's reaction would be a combination of the two measures.

Iran's diplomacy is currently in a deadlock, waiting for Europe's action to save the JCPOA. The regime lacks the people's trust and at the same time its "terrorist acts" have disappointed even its European supporters. In such a situation, and considering the state of Iran's economy Tehran is facing two different scenarios.

First Scenario

Iran's first choice is accepting the status quo and the benefits that are "next to nil." Europe's action to stop the impact of US sanctions have not been fruitful so far. European banks and financial institutions are not interested in working with Iran. Meanwhile, there is still no clear prospect for exchanging Iran's oil and gas with European manufactured goods.

Although Iran does not favour such a scenario, yet it is inevitable while Europe has not come up with a tangible initiative, and there is nothing else Iran could do.

The Second Scenario(s)

Iran's second choice is leaving the JCPOA. But if it does so, it will lose more support from Europe, although in an optimistic scenario Europe might still not support U.S. sanctions against Iran. Even so, the situation would still have repercussions for Iran's foreign and economic relations.

But in a pessimistic scenario, Europe may join the U.S. in imposing sanctions, especially if Iran resumes a full-fledged nuclear effort.

Also, challenges between Iran and Europe over Tehran's missile program, regional ambitions and terror plans in Europe could justify such an action.

Some Iranian hardliners might welcome this scenario. They can take advantage of the Rouhani administration's weakness and control the government and claim the lion's share of political and executive power. However, this will lead to more isolation and provide no tangible benefits.

It appears that the "next to nil benefits" scenario is Tehran's favorite option, and it will accept the same, regardless of all of the complains we hear from Tehran.

The views expressed in this analysis are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of Radio Farda.