On May 21, 2018, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the 12 demands towards Iran for starting negotiations on a new deal. However, President Trump’s diplomacy has demonstrated that his tactics lies in putting up excessive demands from the very beginning and further negotiations on an appropriate deal. In these frames, it would be interesting to look at Pompeo’s demands to clarify where the parties potentially can agree and where the terms are completely unacceptable for Iran.

 

Demand #1

Declare to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear programme and permanently and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity.

Actually, Iran has never officially claimed that its nuclear programme has military dimensions. Contrary to North Korea, the Islamic Republic has not launched nuclear weapon tests, neither has it claimed possessing nuclear weapons. All such allegations can be traced back to Iran’s rivals in the region, mainly to Israel. Thus, it seems a matter of the political will to admit publicly the fulfillment of Iran of this demand.

 

Demand #2

Stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing, including closing its heavy water reactor. 

This demand looks more serious since it means literally to stop the country’s nuclear programme. Moreover, even such perceptions can result in serious disturbances in the Iranian society. Using heavy water reactors does not necessarily mean pursuing plutonium reprocessing.  Some reactors that use heavy water can use unrefined uranium as a fuel, removing the expensive and time consuming enrichment process. It may be a case in Iran. Definitely, the parties can concentrate on uranium enrichment. This process requires other technologies and Iran will ask, at least, for international guarantees for supplies of such technologies. 

 

Demand #3

Provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country.

Definitely, it is an ultimatum unacceptable for a sovereign state. If parties want to reach an agreement on a concrete list of such sites and Iran accepts it, it could be more or less fit solution.

 

Demand #4

End its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems.

It seems that it is one of the key demands included due to the successful lobby by Israel and Saudi Arabia. International Institute for Strategic Studies’ (London) expert Paulina Izewicz points out that in Iran "the ballistic missile programme plays multiple roles: it is an important element of military doctrine, a means of deterrence, and a tool of statecraft." Iran considers his missile programme as a vital instrument to target U.S. allies and its bases in the region in case of an attack by American troops. Oil supplies from the Gulf seem to be one of the major targets for the Iranian missile programme. The United States tends to see a strong link between the Iranian nuclear and missile programmes because ballistic missiles, particularly long-range ones, have historically been the most important delivery system for nuclear warheads.

In spite of numerous boastful statements by Iranian officials of their achievements in developing the national missile programme, the SIPRI doubts Iran’s capacity to develop missiles which can represent a real danger to the U.S. territory. As Dr. Tytti Erästö puts it, “Iran’s missile arsenal consists of short- and medium-range missiles. Its longest-reaching operational missiles have a range of 1600 kilometres, which means that they could hit Israel or US military bases in the Middle East. Although Iran continues to develop its missile capabilities, its focus for the past decade has been on enhancing the accuracy, rather than range, of its missiles.”  There are also fears that Iran can transform its satellite programme into developing long-range missiles. However, there are no historical proofs that such transformation can happen .

Nevertheless, the Iranian military plans for applying their missiles are very clear: to attack the regional targets within the range not exceeding 2000 km, stop oil supplies from the Gulf, ‘punish’ U.S. allies and prevent American airstrikes. Moreover, Tehran considers this strategy as one of the most efficient instruments to deter any potential aggressor.

Definitely, any real serious discussion on the Iranian missile programme is impossible. Besides, the Iranian authorities have already demanded from the EU not to raise the question of the national missile programme as a necessary precondition to continue the nuclear agreement.

 

Demand #5

Release all U.S. citizens as well as citizens of U.S. partners and allies.

A quite negotiable demand. North Korea’s experience demonstrates that it could be a good PR action on the eve of signing a new agreement. The problem may arise with those people who are accused of conducting terroristic activities but even this problem can be solved. 

 

Demand #6

End support to Middle East "terrorist" groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

 

Demand #7

End its military support for the Houthi rebels and work towards a peaceful political settlement in Yemen.

The idea of the global Shiite community which is subordinate to the Shiite clergy in Iran belongs to the core elements of the wilayet-e faqih political system. Refusing Iranian support to the Shiites around the world would inescapably challenge the very legitimacy of the current Iranian political system.

 

Demand #8

Respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and permit the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of Shia militias.

This is also a provocative demand strongly connected to the two previous ones. However, this demand seems to be more impossible to fulfill than the latter ones. Due to the conflict between ayatollahs al-Sistani and al-Sadr, it seems rather doubtful that the Iranian authorities could fulfill Pompeo’s demand even if they are willing to do it.

 

Demand #9

Withdraw all forces under Iran's command throughout the entirety of Syria. 

This demand seems unacceptable as well. Iran has invested too much to Syria just to leave for the favour of Russia and Turkey both of whom can be named as Iranian rivals than allies.

 

Demands #10 and #11

End support for the Taliban and other "terrorists" in Afghanistan and the region and cease harbouring senior al-Qaeda leaders. End the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-linked Quds Force's support for "terrorists" and "militant" partners around the world.

These demands target mainly the Western audience and have a strong populist element. The Iranian authorities generally prosecute all the Sunni radical movements and groups, while the Sunni extremists condemn Iranian (and all Shiites) in blasphemy and apostasy.  There is certain information about the cooperation between the Taliban and Iran, which seems quite natural since the Taliban controls a large part of one of the Iran’s neighboring countries. Definitely, Iran wants to influence the situation in the region. Moreover, Tehran can mention Pakistan’s involvement in anti-governmental activities inside Iran.

Unfortunately, demanding to stop any deals with the Taliban and other ‘terrorists’ in Afghanistan, the American authorities propose nothing to balance a very complicated security situation in the region. If they want any changes in the Iranian policy towards Afghanistan, strong alternatives and guarantees should be provided.

 

Demand #12 

End its threatening behaviour against its neighbours, many of whom are U.S. allies, including its threats to destroy Israel and its firing of missiles at Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and threats to international shipping and destructive cyberattacks.

This demand has a rather vague nature. It is unclear how the United States is going to control the Iranian propaganda and how it can help U.S. allies in the region. Moreover, an image of a strong permanent enemy serves as a strong legitimizing instrument for such political system as the Iranian one. However, the United States can admit some concessions even if Iran changes nothing in its propaganda.

Thus, President Trump continues to implement his traditional approach – excessive demands with further negotiations and concessions. However, in the case of Iran most of the demands concern the essential pillars of the survival of the Iranian regime. Those demands which look as negotiable do not change the situation in the region and do not satisfy the American allies – Saudi Arabia and Israel, while the harm from leaving the deal has been already done. The White House risks failing this game, causing more damage than obtaining profit if a new deal is made. 


About author:

Aliaksandr Filipau is the Director of the Institute of Extended Training and Further Education at the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts. He has PhD in Political Science from the Academy of Public Administration in Minsk. In 2009-2013, he worked as Senior Analyst at the Information-Analytical Center under the Administration of the President of Belarus. The areas of his research interests are public administration, international relations, Arabic and Middle Eastern studies, Belarusian public policy.