October 5, 2023

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Will a prisoner exchange between the US and Iran spark diplomacy at the UN General Assembly?

Will a prisoner exchange between the US and Iran spark diplomacy at the UN General Assembly?

Iranian nuclear program highlights UN General Assembly

Both the US President Joe Biden And his Iranian counterpart Ibrahim RaisiHe will address the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, September 19. The long-awaited prisoner exchange between the United States and Iran is expected to take place in the coming days, ahead of the speeches.

While the prisoner exchange — five will be released on each side, Elizabeth Hagedorn reported — seems straightforward, as far as these types of exchanges go, the Biden administration is being ridiculed by Republican critics for releasing $6 billion owed to Iran by Iran. South Korean banks, as reported by Adam Lucente. These funds were frozen under US sanctions in 2018, when the Trump administration withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). They have now been transferred to a restricted account supervised by Qatar.

Before the United States withdrew from the JCPOA, Iran adhered to the terms of the deal. Since then, Iran has approached the nuclear weapons threshold, reducing the breakout period from years to months.

The plan appears to be that the transfer of six billion dollars, more than the release of prisoners, constitutes an advance payment to Iran in order to remain below the nuclear threshold and contain the possibilities of escalation in Lebanon, Iraq, and other hotbeds of tension in the region.

For Iran, everything has a price. Tehran considers the nuclear issue to be a means of pressure and hedging in dealing with the United States, especially if a more stringent Republican administration wins the White House next year, and in its deterrent position with regard to Israel. The nuclear card in Tehran’s possession should not be abandoned. This was the goal of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Iran considers all of this as ongoing and endlessly possible negotiations, and it is also affected by shifts in the global balance of power, as its policies have become more established and harmonious in the East, that is, with China and Russia.

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Critics of Biden’s approach do not believe in talking to Iran about anything, often ignoring the increasingly strong deterrence posture of the United States, and pinning their hopes on sanctions and regime change.

On the deterrence side, the US-Bahrain security agreement announced this week, as Jared Szuba reported, is being described as a “model” of the administration’s commitment to its Gulf partners. The United States’ pursuit of a peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel—while framed mostly, but not exclusively, as an extension of the Abraham Accords—is also a potential cornerstone of this deterrent posture, if the parties can achieve it. (See Ben Caspit’s latest here on how the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (He is “stuck” in pushing the issue due to conflicts within his government over how to deal with the Palestinian Authority.)

The question at the UN General Assembly this week is whether a prisoner exchange could provide a new opportunity for diplomacy, building on regional initiatives such as the ongoing Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, which appears to have advanced diplomacy to end the war in Yemen.

Regarding the nuclear file, the prospects for renewed diplomacy will be tried under fire in the United Nations General Assembly. Latest report of the International Atomic Energy Agency “It regrets that no progress was made in resolving the outstanding safeguards issues in the reporting period.” On Saturday, the International Atomic Energy Agency condemned Iran for withdrawing the accreditation of some of its inspectors.

These reports come despite Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Saying that Iran will cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency on safeguards, as required under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but no more. More intrusive monitoring and inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, as required under the JCPOA, are not on the table.

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The United States and the European Union threaten to issue a new resolution to the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding Iran’s recent actions. Another benchmark to be held next month is the meeting of the parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on October 18 – the so-called “transition day”. This is when the UN is set to lift restrictions on Iran’s research, development and production of ballistic missiles, and its import and export of missile- and drone-related technology, in exchange for Iran submitting the Additional Protocol to its parliament for ratification. Which won’t happen. The United States, which is no longer a party to the JCPOA, may want its European partners to maintain pressure on Iran over Ukraine to force it to make further concessions on Iranian support to Russia, and even threaten to impose snap sanctions, as allowed in the JCPOA. Common comprehensive.

United Nations General Assembly meetings are also held one year after a death Mahsa Amini, who died while in detention in Iran due to violating the hijab. The protests and subsequent crackdowns caught the world’s attention. Last year, just ten days after Amini’s death, Elizabeth Hagedorn and I asked the Iranian foreign minister Hussein Amir Abdullahian “Shouldn’t your government realize that people are saying enough is enough, and ease restrictions on hijab and morality enforcement, and perhaps shut down the morality police?”

Since then, the Iranian government has shown few signs of responding to the protesters’ demands. However, the past year has been significant for Iranian politics, economy and society. Watch our special series here on the impact of the protests one year later, by Bijan Khajehpour, Jack Dutton, Rena Basst, Ambreen Zaman and our correspondent in Tehran.

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Al-Monitor-Semaphore Global Summit for the Middle East

Al-Monitor, the award-winning Middle East news service, and Semafor, the global media platform, will hold the first Global Middle East Summit, an exclusive live event on the sidelines of the 78th UN General Assembly in New York City.

The event will cover key trends shaping the Middle East, including regional integration, energy transition, development, security, and technology.

King Abdullah II Jordan and the Prime Minister Muhammad Shiaa Al-SudaniIraq will top the agenda, which will also include: Anwar Gargash, Senior Diplomatic Advisor to the President of the United Arab Emirates; Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry; Omani Minister of Foreign Affairs Sayyed Badr Al Busaidi; US Assistant Secretary of State Barbara paper; Deputy Assistant and Senior Advisor to the President for Energy and Investment Affairs Amos Hochstein; Director-General and Special Representative of the Office of the Presidency of the United Arab Emirates to the Twenty-Eighth Conference of the PartiesMajed Al Suwaidi; And many other things.

You can learn more about the program here: Middle East Global Summit (mideastglobalsummit.com)