The mutual mistrust between Iran and the United States to return to discuss the nuclear deal (JCPOA), signed in Vienna in 2015 and unilaterally torn by the former president, Donald Trump, are still strong.
On the one hand, Iran would like reassurance on the lifting of sanctions before sitting down at the negotiating table, even threatening to block inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
And so IAEA director Rafael Grossi flew to Tehran last Saturday and got the green light for a three-month technical agreement for a new round of inspections. “A good result. We will maintain the necessary level of monitoring and verification but with less access (to Iranian sites, ed) ”, Explained Grossi without going into details.
On the other hand, the five countries of the United Nations Security Council (P5 + 1), together with Germany, have raised many doubts about the Iranian conduct after exceeding the limits, imposed by the Vienna agreement, in the production of uranium in the Isfahan factories, certified by IAEA inspectors.
In this case, the Iranian authorities have assured that a simple research and development project is underway and more generally confirm the civilian purposes of the nuclear program, denying the intention to make a bomb.
From words to deeds
The Iranian tightening brings to mind the disappointed expectations of January 2016, when everything seemed ready for the end of the United States “embargo” on Tehran and instead Trump wanted to turn the clock back in time by threatening to sanction third countries that might have wanted to go back to doing business with the ayatollahs. And so, the Iranian authorities are asking only “concrete action” from the United States. The diplomat of the European Union, Enrique Mora, had tweeted that “he is ready to invite” all parties to dialogue “at this critical moment” for the agreement. To such an extent that the Iranian reaction was not long in coming. “The gestures are fine” – said the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh – “but remember that it was Trump who left the agreement”.
The other issue on the negotiating table is the role of Iran in regional conflicts. The country was hit by the very serious attacks of January 2020 that cost the life of the commander of the al-Quds brigades, Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, with the green light of Trump’s United States, and with the targeted killing of the nuclear engineer, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, and the commander of the Pasdaran, Muslim Shahdan, behind whom, according to the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, is the longa manus of Israel.
As if that weren’t enough, on February 15, a base, used by the US-led coalition, was attacked in Erbil, in northern Iraq. The attack resulted in one death and the wounding of six people. The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said he was “outraged” by the attack, claimed by the Shiite Guardians of Blood Brigades. The Iranian influence in the country was severely criticized by the local population during the demonstrations that took place in Iraq between 2019 and 2020.
The central role of Europe
The three European countries that sat at the negotiating table with Iran and resumed their business with Tehran between 2015 and 2016 have a central role to play in the return to the Vienna agreements, then forced to take a step back, following Trump’s decisions: France, Great Britain and Germany. The three European countries (Eu3) had already devised the INSTEX payment system to carry out transactions with Iran bypassing the sanctions imposed by the United States.
And so it was from these three countries that the negotiation attempt by the new US envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, began, who since January has continued to dialogue with his counterparts in Europe. Not only that, the spokesman for the State Department, Ned Price, took a step further in recent days and said he was ready to accept the invitation of the European Union to sit around a table to return to discuss Iranian nuclear power.
The president, Joe Biden, would like to revive the Vienna agreement, strongly supported by the former US president, Barack Obama. The signals sent out by the Democratic president, after his inauguration last January 20, all go in this direction: the stop to US weapons in Saudi Arabia with the hope of closing the bloody page of the humanitarian emergency in the ongoing proxy war in Yemen, the revision of migration policies, including the wall between the United States and Mexico, and the cancellation of the Muslim Ban that Trump wanted precisely to isolate some countries of North Africa and the Middle East, including Iran.
Not only that, the Biden administration has announced that it will gradually overcome the restrictions imposed on specific figures involved in Iran in the diplomatic negotiations on nuclear power and accredited to the United Nations.
But times are very tight. In June, presidential elections will take place in Iran which could sanction the end of the moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, and open the way for an ultra-conservative candidate from the circle of former president Mahmud Ahmadinejad or other politicians of the more conservative and close current. pasdaran that they would not have in mind to return to dialogue with the United States.
The conservative right would have as a weapon in the electoral campaign not only the violations of Iranian sovereignty, including the Persian Gulf, which involved Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel, but also the accusations of “inability to negotiate” by moderate politicians, such as the chief negotiator Javad Zarif, who instead did everything to obtain an agreement and overcome the international isolation of the country but did not see the end of the international sanctions materialize.
Between pandemic and economic crisis
42 years after the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran’s future is full of unknowns, not only related to nuclear power. It was the country with the most deaths from Covid-19 in the Middle East, with over 59,000 confirmed victims. Despite this, the supreme guide, Elder Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose health has raised concern in recent months, has closed the doors to Pfizer / BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines, much preferring Russian Sputnik. “I don’t trust them. Sometimes they want to test their vaccines in other countries, ”Khamenei thundered.
Yet Iran is exhausted by years of economic crisis, aggravated by international sanctions and capital flight which in 2016 were returning thanks to investments by large multinationals, including Total, Peugeot and Airbus, leaving Iranians in the throes of youth unemployment and skyrocketing inflation. In order to demand greater wage rights and equality between men and women, the Iranians resumed taking to the streets between 2018 and 2019, demonstrating against the neo-liberal policies of the moderate government in power.
In January 2020, following the admission of responsibility by local authorities in the downing of the Ukrainian Boeing 737 flight, young people and students, once close to the reformists, had also returned to the gates of the University of Tehran to protest further. general against the Islamic Republic.
The most affected by the wage crisis were once again the workers of the Iranian factories. Last April, following the approval of a 21 percent increase in the minimum wage, a group of workers at the Haft Tapeh sugar factory organized a sit-in to protest the failure of the Labor Ministry-appointed Supreme Labor Council. in enforcing Article 41 of the Labor Law which recognizes automatic wage increases in relation to inflation. Application of the law was disregarded as early as 2013, when the minimum wage was raised by 25 percent despite inflation rates at the time exceeding 32 percent.
On April 8, 2020, representatives of the Iranian government, industrialists, businessmen and trade unionists were seated again at the negotiating table to review the minimum wage increases. Some trade unionists went so far as to demand a 60 percent increase in minimum wages to offset the rising cost of living, having to settle for a 21 percent increase at the end of the negotiations.
Two days later, 6,000 workers and activists signed a petition asking trade unionists to refuse to sign an “unfair” agreement and calling for a review of the products included in the basket of goods, used to calculate the cost of living. The definition of a methodology for calculating the cost of living came in 2013, shortly after the inauguration of President Rouhani, who started his second term in 2017, and who appointed Ali Rabiei, a former official, as Minister of Labor. the Workers House, the national trade union confederation, affiliated with the World Trade Union Federation (Wftu), which had had problematic relations with the government during the presidency of the radical, Mahmud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013).
Rabiei decided to set up a technical commission, under the control of the Superior Labor Council, with the task of systematically publishing data on the cost of living. Despite this, criticisms of labor legislation and the bargaining capacity of trade unions continue to be raised among Iranian activists in the country and abroad.
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