KT edit: Iran talks must include all regional players

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The current talks in Vienna are expected to last up to ten days, and the US and Iranian regime might not even talk directly during this period.

There has never been a doubt that the United States can be a peacemaker in the Middle East. The regional governments have placed their trust in successive American administrations to play a wider role as an interlocutor in helping resolve various conflicts. However, whether this can happen without taking some of the prominent regional players on board is debatable. The recent round of indirect talks between the Iranian regime and PS+1 (China, Russia, the US, the UK, France and Germany), courtesy European diplomacy, is an effort to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

It will be a long-drawn process considering the additional sanctions that were imposed by the Trump administration on Iran. The current talks in Vienna are expected to last up to ten days, and the US and Iranian regime might not even talk directly during this period. But what it signals is the Biden administration’s willingness to return to the deal and throw a lifeline to Iran again — which might not be in the best interests of the countries regionally.

Iran of today is different from what it was in 2015 or before. The country has an advanced nuclear programme, a ballistic missile arsenal, and it continues to pursue a regional policy of supporting proxy groups. Since the withdrawal of the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018, the Iranian government accelerated its nuclear development programme and now has the capability to produce a weapon in a matter of months. Meanwhile, the regime has also been entering new economic partnerships that will give it some leverage of its own. The recent deal with China, for instance, will allow it to ease international isolation and demand better terms with the US as it negotiates the nuclear deal.

The $400-billion sweeping pact with China is part of the 25-year economic cooperation agreement spanning across industries, including banking and telecommunications and involves exchange of oil. China is looking to deepen its role in the Middle East and Iran can prove to be a good partner. Its proxies, namely Houthis, Hamas, and Hezbollah, are politically strong and work to advance Iran’s interests. Peace and stability will be compromised in the Middle East until Iran is reined in from fomenting crises in its neighbourhood. A new nuclear deal could be a way forward, and it must have prominent regional players such as the GCC countries and Israel on board. The 2015 nuclear deal in its present form will not do any good to the region. The Biden administration should take note of this.

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