Getting to ‘yes’ on a new Iran deal

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week and I've got your Quick Take and thought I would talk a little bit about where we are with Iran. One of the Biden administration's promises upon election was to get the Americans back into the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal. As of last week, negotiations are formally restarted, and pretty quickly, in Vienna, they're not direct. The Americans and Iranians are both there, but they're being intermediated by the Europeans because they're not yet ready to show that they can talk directly to each other. That's Iran being cautious in the run-up to their presidential election coming this summer. But the movement is there. So far the talk has largely been about sequencing the Iranian government, saying that all of the sanctions need to be removed before they're willing to go back into the deal, because the Americans after all, unilaterally withdrew from a deal that the Iranians were indeed adhering to, and the inspections did confirm that.


The Americans are saying, we don't care. We're much larger than you are. You have now taken steps Iran, to enrich uranium beyond the levels that they had committed to in the deal. They've stockpiled that enriched uranium, they've kicked inspectors out, so they have to show that they are actually back in the confines of the deal. And once they do that, which will take a few months, then you can in lock step bring the American sanctions off. And the Iranians are not prepared to say that they'll accept that, they will get there. And so, if this were just about the United States and Iran finding a way to get back to yes, especially because the people that are actually in the room, the negotiators working level from Iran and the United States include many of the same people that actually put together this deal to begin with, back in 2015, 2016, under the Obama administration. That makes it a lot easier.

Everybody wants to get to yes. But not everybody outside the room wants to get to yes. And we've seen, in quite spectacular fashion over the last several days, a major cyberattack. Looks like it destroyed the independent power source for Iran's nuclear facility in Natanz. One of the most important assessments are that this is taking their nuclear capabilities to develop enrich uranium off some nine months potentially, which makes it a lot harder for the Iranians to push the Americans and say, here's what we're going to do with our program if you don't come back to the deals. So, it undermines their leverage. But it also makes the hardliners in Iran say, why do we want to do this deal at all? Because we've got a big fight with the West. Here we are trying to be somewhat more accountable and they're going to hit us no matter what. The attack from Israeli sources, Iranian sources and American sources, the attack came from Israel.

Why would Israel engage in strikes to undermine the effort by its principal ally, the United States, to get back into the deal? Well, to answer that question we need to go back to 2013, 2015, and ask why then prime minister Bibi Netanyahu, in charge, just as he is right now, sort of, get to that in a second, was willing to do everything he could to individually lobby lawmakers in the United States, and even make a trip to have a speech in front of Congress, to undermine the coming nuclear deal. While Obama, the president of the United States was doing everything possible to get that deal done. So, the fact that the United States and Israel are allies does not mean that they see eye to eye on this. The fact that America is vastly more powerful than Israel and is an enormous supporter of Israel intelligence and defense, does not mean that the Israelis will align with the United States on an issue that is seen to be vastly more important to their own national security, that of a potential Iranian nuclear program, and the enrichment of the Iranian government.

And so, back in 2013, 15, Netanyahu was doing everything possible to see if they could screw up the deal on the American side. They know they can't do that now, because the Biden administration and Congress is completely supportive on the democratic side of getting this deal done. So, what they're trying to do is see if they can undermine the Iranian position. Get the Iranians so angry that they escalate and blow up the prospects of getting this deal done. We've seen some of that with some Israeli strikes against Iranian militias in Syria. We've seen some of that with Israel engaged in what looks to be mining of Iranian ships most recently in The Red Sea. And now, certainly not a coincidence, this massive cyberattack against an Iranian nuclear facility. Clearly the Biden administration is going to be very upset about this. I am sure there is no love lost between Jake Sullivan, Antony Blinken and their counterparts in Israel right now.

But having said that, it's not going to kill the deal. The Iranian government isn't going to take the bait. If they engage in strikes, they will take their time and they will be targeted against Israeli targets, they will not hit the United States. It was very interesting that the foreign minister of Iran, Javad Zarif, was focused on the Little Satan, as they referred to Israel, as opposed to Great Satan, the United States. They're differentiating Satan's which is certainly an important message from Iran. So, I think this is significant. I think it's worth watching. But I also think that by the end of the year, there will be an agreement for the Americans and Iranians to get back into the deal. Keep in mind that the window for the number of years this deal applies is pretty narrow now. I mean, before the Iranians would be able to restart their production, and again the sanctions would snap back, I suspect at the very least, they're going to want to extend the number of years for which the deal applies by five, for example, that seems smart.

They won't be able to get further agreements on things like ballistic missiles and Iran's support for organizations across the region that the US considers to be terrorists. What that also means is that the United States is not going to remove all of the sanctions against Iran. This deal is important in so far as it allows Iran to produce an export, another million barrels of oil a day, that brings the price down. It's important in so far as it prevents verifiably, the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons capabilities, at least for as long as the deal is in place.

But beyond that, it does very little. It doesn't stop them from developing ballistic missiles. Doesn't stop them from engaging in attacks against the United States and its allies in the region. It doesn't end American sanctions against Iran. It doesn't open the Iranian economy for business with American financial organizations or those of other countries that want to do business with those American firms. So, that's where we are right now. It's fascinating geopolitical stuff. We are still very much on track for a deal that does matter, but not everybody is happy about it, and it's going to be pretty controversial. So, that's a little bit from me. Hope everyone is safe and avoid fewer people. We are getting there. Talk to you soon.

While residents of wealthy countries are getting ready for hot vaxxed summer — COVID is still ravaging many low- and middle-income countries. The horrifying scenes coming out of India in recent weeks have gripped the world, causing governments and civil society to quickly mobilize and pledge support.

But on the other side of the globe, Brazil is also being pummeled by the pandemic — and has been for a year now. Yet thus far, the outpouring of aid and (solidarity) hasn't been as large.

What explains the global alarm at India's situation, and seeming passivity towards Brazil's plight? What are the politics of compassion?

More Show less

Delhi-based reporter Barkha Dutt's decades of journalism couldn't prepare her for the horrific experience of covering the death of one specific COVID-19 victim: her own father. In a conversation with Ian Bremmer, Dutt recounts her desperate struggle to find an ambulance to take her father through Delhi traffic to reach the hospital, only for him to die in the ICU. Their in-depth discussion looks at India's struggle with the world's worst COVID crisis in the upcoming episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television Friday, May 7. Check local listings.

A Green Party-led government for the world's fourth largest economy? That's no longer far-fetched. As Signal's Gabrielle Debinski wrote last month, most current polls now show Germany's Greens in first place in federal elections set for September 26. And for the first time, the Greens have a candidate for chancellor. Annalena Baerbock is vying to replace Angela Merkel, who has led Germany for the past 16 years.

More Show less

India and Brazil are currently the world's top two COVID hotspots. But while India's crisis is — at least according to official statistics — a relatively recent one, Brazil's COVID disaster has been an ongoing train wreck. Where India seemed to have kept the pandemic under control until some bad missteps about two months ago, COVID has been wreaking havoc in Brazil almost constantly for over a year now. And President Jair Bolsonaro's macho-posturing and COVID denialism has clearly not helped. We take a look at average daily new cases and deaths in both countries since the pandemic began.

US reverses course on vaccine patents: In a surprise move, the Biden administration will now support waiving international property rights for COVID vaccines at the World Trade Organization. Until now the US had firmly opposed waiving those patents, despite demands from developing countries led by India and South Africa to do so. Biden's about face comes just a week after he moved to free up 60 million of American-bought AstraZeneca jabs — still not approved by US regulators — for nations in need. It's not clear how fast an IP waiver would really help other countries, as the major impediments to ramping up vaccine manufacturing have more to do with logistics and supply chains than with patent protections alone. But if patent waivers do accelerate production over time, then that could accelerate a global return to normal — potentially winning the US a ton of goodwill.

More Show less

28: Yair Lapid, leader of Israel's opposition Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party, has 28 days to form a new government. President Reuven Rivlin tapped Lapid after incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to cobble together a governing coalition by Tuesday's midnight deadline, further prolonging Israel's political stalemate.

More Show less

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

How big of a blow is Apple's new privacy feature to companies like Facebook, who depend on tracking users?

The long-awaited update, including enhanced privacy features, actually empowers those users to decide not to be tracked. So that's great news for people who are sick of how the data trail they leave behind on the web is used. But it has to be said, that simple feature settings changed by Apple cannot solve the problem of misuse of data and microtargeting alone. Still, Apple's move was met with predictable outrage and anti-trust accusations from ad giant Facebook. I would anticipate more standard setting by companies in the absence of a federal data protection law in the United States. That's just to mention one vacuum that big tech thrives on.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

India’s COVID crisis hits home

GZERO World Clips
The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal