The month of December has seen fractured talks between delegates of the United States and Iran as they work towards restoring compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the J.C.P.O.A.
It seems the stalemate continues despite claims of sincerity from both sides. As the seventh round of the talks continues at Vienna, the need to reach an agreement becomes ever greater. Especially as the global energy crisis looms closer.
The saga of Iran and its nuclear threat is long and deep-rooted. When the JCPOA was first agreed upon in 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, Germany, France, Russia and China), it was thought to be an end of sorts. Or at the very least it was meant to bring order to the madness.
Iran had then agreed to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of its economic sanctions. They had also agreed to allow international inspectors and limit their uranium research and development.
This was not to last, however, as Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018. Trump's gamble was that the new crippling sanctions he had imposed would effectively end Iran's nuclear ambitions. But Iran had called the bluff and began selling their oil to China, a willing party. In turn, this led to Iran violating the limits the JCPOA had previously set by enriching uranium up to 60 percent and employing advanced centrifuges.
Trump may now be gone but that is not the only administration change. The overall atmosphere is far more bitter and rigid, no doubt a direct ramification of Trump's scrapping of the initial deal.
Not only that, Iran's new hard-line president, Ebrahim Raisi has strict demands to have all sanctions lifted in exchange for compliance with the JCPOA's nuclear demands. In addition, they want to retain some of their advancements in the last few years such as their uranium enrichment capabilities
Raisi is more inclined to do business with neighbouring countries such as China over the West. That suits China just fine. For American and by extension western interests it is paramount to strike before China. The question is why have not they?
Biden has not made a proper move, instead, he has only fumbled around on this issue and his earlier showing in Afghanistan has not really struck fear into anyone's hearts. Now Biden is hoping a push from China and Russia would pressure Iran into a suitable compromise.
And in this current energy crisis, a sanction-free Iran is in our best interests. If trade is just restricted to Russia and China, Bangladesh would miss out on the potential opportunities.
The problem is that relations between the parties are shaky at best. And with the US mounting pressure on Russia over Ukraine and China over Taiwan and the Uyghurs, their rebuttal boils down to "why should we?"
Indeed why should they? Since the deal was terminated in 2018, China has enjoyed a stronger foothold in the Middle East. It would be baffling for anyone to back out of that advantage.
China has amassed goodwill in Iran by helping them salvage their economy post-2018. But that is not just out of the kindness of their hearts. They have gained a vital footing in the Middle East playing right into their foreign policy ambitions.
The culmination of their improved relations was the $400 billion deal signed between China and Iran. In return for a steady oil supply, China has agreed to invest $400 billion over the next 25 years.
As for Russia, their participation in the JCPOA is a great bargaining chip against western pressure over Ukraine. But alongside that, they also now enjoy closer relations with Iran. In fact, if rumours are to be believed, it would appear that Putin and Raisi are also considering a similar deal but the details of that still elude us.
The thought of a powerful Chinese-Russian-Iranian alliance would be enough to at least give the US some pause. It would mean that the threat of sanctions would no longer hold them to "good behaviour."
The other country cautiously hot on the US' heels is Israel. They arguably have the most to gain or lose from the JCPOA. Like Trump, Israel had hoped the new sanctions would cripple Iran but it has not worked out like so.
Israel is insistent on remaining the major player in the region with nuclear capabilities and they hope that Biden will play into that. If not, Prime Minister Neftali Bennet has sounded off a warning that they would destroy Iran's nuclear ambitions even if they are forced to stand alone.
For a country like ours, barely standing on the sidelines, it may seem like the JCPOA is not something that would be in our peripheral. But the truth is that it would matter more than we think.
Bangladesh has recently graduated as a developing country; we have a fast-growing economy and a big population. The more we develop and grow, the more our energy demand rises. And in this current energy crisis, a sanction-free Iran is in our best interests. If trade is just restricted to Russia and China, Bangladesh would miss out on the potential opportunities.
So, as it stands now, the clock is ticking away and like an old western, the world powers are standing at a stalemate pointing their guns waiting for the first one to strike. The seventh round of talks wrapped up last Friday with the eighth reportedly scheduled to take place before the end of the year. So far there have been two big agreements to show for it.
The first of which is that Iran has reportedly agreed to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to reinstall cameras that would allow the UN to observe Iran's nuclear facility in Karaj. Secondly, the parties are now much closer to agreeing on a joint draft that would incorporate text that was reached in the sixth round of talks.
The chief negotiators of both Russia and Iran have cited the progress as a sign of hope. While on the US side of things, it seems they are growing impatient.
US security advisor Jake Sullivan has said that talks could be exhausted within a few weeks if a conclusion is not reached. With everything on the line - including a potential pre-emptive strike from Israel, diplomacy has to prevail and someone has to be the first to break the deadlock.