WILL NEW TALKS WITH IRAN SALVAGE THE NUCLEAR ACCORD?

WILL NEW TALKS WITH IRAN SALVAGE THE NUCLEAR ACCORD?

The latest round of international nuclear talks with Iran got underway in Vienna today.  These latest JCPOA negotiations come against the backdrop of recent direct talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia: the first in many years that indicate a potential de-escalation of the cross-Gulf tensions that have dominated the region for the past decade.

Despite this more promising regional context and the fact that the United States is back at the negotiating table with its main European allies, there is criticism that the JCPOA talks continue to exclude the Gulf states and may thereby fail to take account of the still very real concerns of the GCC member states.

The United Arab Emirates and Iraq have been instrumental in bringing Saudi and Iran to a potentially historic moment of cross-Gulf rapprochement, signalling once again that the regional powers are increasingly willing to use their diplomatic power and resources. It is similarly noteworthy that the first rounds of meetings between Saudi and Iranian officials took place in Baghdad; not Geneva, or Vienna or New York.  This also indicates that Middle East powers are becoming increasingly assertive in pursuit of their own diplomatic and regional interests.

Seen in this light the decision by the E3 powers and the US to neglect the inclusion of the GCC states this time around risks further failure for the proposed revival of the JCPOA.  Arguably, the region at most direct risk from a nuclear-armed Iran is the immediate neighbourhood of the Middle East; while the countries most directly threatened are Israel and the Gulf states.  Therefore the failure to include any representation from the region suggests that any new nuclear accord will face the same predicament as the original agreement.