Islamabad (Rana Ali Zohaib): Upcoming presidential elections are crucial as the change of leadership in Iran, one way or the other, will impact the ongoing nuclear talks. In that, there can be a lull, whilst the momentum of current engagement among the key stakeholders needs to be strengthening to grasp whatever has agreed so far in the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA). while appreciating the EU efforts, panelists at the webinar on ‘JCPOA and International Multilateral Diplomacy’ organized by the Institute of Regional Studies, also called for further change of attitude of both Iran and the US toward each other and show more flexibility.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Imran Sardar, Research Analyst from IRS cautions that the situation in the Middle East and Israel’s strong opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA) was the naked threats to the success of nuclear talks.  While echoing Prof. Reza Takhshid’s words Mr. Sardar said that the change of leadership will not have a significant impact on the ongoing nuclear talks since Iran principally weighs in the JCPOA.

Prof. Dr. Farid Mirgbagheri of Iran called the flexibility in Iranian behavior ‘heroic’ since Iran in the past was adamant ‘not to accept the curtailment of its nuclear program’. He attributed this change to legal lacunas and financial implications for Iran’s economy. However, he was a bit optimistic that trading with Iran would smooth and easy right of the parties reached to an agreement bearing in mind the companies have to readjust refineries again in Iran, which, he said, is a long process since companies are initially would be uncertain and unwilling. Dr. Farid, also claimed that reaching the agreement is also challenging in the first place since the agreement has to go through the US Senate where it might ‘encounter tough questions’ from the opposition. Apart, the enthusiasm from both Iran and the US for not letting the negotiation derailed is indeed welcoming, he said.

While speaking on the occasion, Lt. Gen (retd) Abdul Qayyum said the situation in the Middle East, and Afghanistan necessitated the urgency to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. He stressed that isolating Iran did not serve the purpose of the US in the past nor will serve again. Gen. Qayyum urged Iran to have a working relationship with the US, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and all Muslim countries. He urged the new leadership in Iran to capitalize on the opportunity to take negotiations in their hands as earliest possible which would certainly squeeze the chances for the hardliners to dictate the negotiating terms with the west.

Dr. Qandeel Abbas, Professor at QAU, criticized the western approach to nuclear proliferation as ‘double standard’ when it comes to deal with Israel and the Indian nuclear program. On the prospects of JCOPA under new leadership in Iran, Dr. Abbas said that as of now, there are expectations that the next president of Iran might come from the hardliners since the unilateral withdrawal of the US has fueled the political factions to take a stringent stance. Dr. Abbas projected the rise of Ibrahim Raisi in Iran, which he said, was the induvial who opposed the Rouhani’s weak stand on the nuclear program and in the JCPOA deal. With the change leadership, the team of negotiators will also be changed which might create problems for a smooth dialogue process, he claimed.

While concluding the session, Mr. Sardar, that serious efforts are required to keep the negotiation away from any frictions as well as the spoilers. Despite, the strong desire of the leadership of both US and Iran for the continuation of the nuclear talks, there are still domestic resistances, and therefore, a working relationship between the two countries on the sideline of Vienna talks is necessary.