On Tuesday, a joint statement from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council was issued, highlighting their shared commitment to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and urging that nuclear conflicts must be avoided at all costs.
A day earlier, officials from the five-member states – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China – along with their counterparts from Germany, resumed the eighth round of negotiations with the Iranian regime, after a brief break over the Christmas and New Year period, in a bid to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Iran returned to the negotiations with an expansion of its demands for up-front sanctions relief without pre-condition. Each of the Western participants in those negotiations declared that Iran was moving away from earlier compromises during the seventh session, and even Russia and China were reportedly taken aback.
The UNSC statement clearly shows the unity between the member states in their efforts to deter the regime’s nuclear advances. In an excerpt from the statement, it read, “For as long as they continue to exist, [nuclear weapons] should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented.”
Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister spoke out on Tuesday, stating that while “the diplomatic door is open, time is running out to reach an agreement.”
Iranian authorities seemingly undermined the negotiations by carrying out a space launch with the apparent intention of warning their adversaries about Tehran’s missile capabilities.
The goal of the launch was to place three items into the Earth’s orbit, which turned out to be a complete failure. However, the attempt has showcased how much the regime has progressed towards its plan to develop ballistic missiles. Including this launch, there have been six in total since 2016, with only one being successful.
Since 2020, the Iranian regime has been working to produce uranium metal on a grand scale, a product that has no purpose other than being used as part of the core of nuclear weapons. They have also enriched some of that material using advanced centrifuges, completely defying the terms of the nuclear deal.
The UNSC resolution governing the agreement does “call upon” Iran to avoid work on weapons “designed to be capable” of carrying a nuclear warhead, but Iran has exploited the vagueness of this language to move ahead with activities that are deemed violations by the Western signatories.
During the current talks, Iran’s negotiators have convinced themselves that their hardline approach is working effectively. The spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh claimed that the Western powers ‘recognized the need to abandon their own “maximalist” positions’, while Ali Bagheri Kani, the lead negotiator, denied that the talks were focused on the regime’s compliance.
Western officials, on the other hand, have already declared that if Iran refuses to ‘change its posture and negotiate in good faith’, they are ready to walk away from the discussions entirely. Despite Russia and China’s allied history with Iran, given the UNSC statement, it appears that all member states agree with this plan.
It remains to be seen not just whether those states will follow through on their supposed commitments, but also whether the Western powers will take assertive measures such as the expansion of sanctions or even military action to prevent Iran from narrowing its breakout window even more.