Iranians headed to polling stations on Friday to elect President Hassan Rouhani’s successor. The reformist leader’s second term is coming to an end.
Rouhani was one of the main makers of the 2015 nuclear agreement, and Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
The vote took place at a tense moment of the agreement.
The then President Donald Trump unilaterally asked the United States to withdraw from the agreement in May 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran.
Iran’s response is to steadily reduce its compliance with the agreement, and it remains a signatory of the agreement.
The other current signatories are the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia and China.
Since Washington withdrew, the European parties to the agreement have scrambled to reinstate the agreement, which is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA).
France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the European Union have tried to mitigate the impact of the re-imposed sanctions on Tehran, but with little success.
However, in the context of the promotion of US President Joe Biden to the White House, hopes of saving the JCPOA have recently risen.
Biden hopes to resume the transaction and even extend its terms. There have been several rounds of indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran.
The talks were not direct because Iran refused to meet face-to-face, but the United States had discussions with many participants.
Now, all eyes are on Iran.
Will Friday’s poll results affect the future of the agreement?
Here is what you should know:
What is Tehran’s current position on JCPOA?
Although internal differences still exist, different political factions in Iran seem to have reached a consensus that the resumption of the nuclear agreement is necessary to lift the severe sanctions that affect all aspects of the country’s economy.
Conservative candidate Ibrahim Raisy, widely regarded as the front-runner, said in a recent televised election debate that he will respect the nuclear deal, adding that he plans to form a “strong” government to steer it towards Development in the right direction.
Ali Husseini Khamenei, the chief decision-maker of Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, said that once the United States shows that it will abide by its commitments under the agreement, Tehran will return to the agreement.
Iran has stated that it hopes to remove the 1,500 or so “all” sanctions imposed, re-implemented or relabeled during the Trump era, after which it will spend an indeterminate period of time verifying whether these sanctions have been lifted in action.
It also wants to ensure that the United States will not unilaterally withdraw from the agreement in the future, although it is unclear what form this guarantee will take.
The Islamic Republic has expressed its willingness to resume its commitment under the JCPOA, but has not publicly announced how to do this or how long it will take, and it opposes expanding the original agreement.
Earlier this week, Iran’s top negotiator and Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghci stated that the country hopes to reach a “good” agreement that serves its interests and is not in a hurry for success.
He had previously warned that if Iran believes that other parties are not serious about the discussion, it will immediately withdraw from the negotiations.
Will the election affect this?
All six candidates running for the presidency (one of them is a moderate) support the continuation of negotiations aimed at restoring the agreement.
Therefore, the results are not expected to change Tehran’s current position-trying to resume trading.
Crucially, the same is true for Khamenei, who has the ultimate authority on Tehran’s position on this issue.
“Sanctions relief is [Iranian] Sanam Wakir, deputy director and senior researcher of the Middle East and North Africa Project at the Chatham Institute, a British think tank, told Al Jazeera.
“So I didn’t see the process being affected [by the Iranian election] Unless the United States refuses to compromise on lifting sanctions,” she said.
What is the position of the United States and what are the views of the signatories such as China and Russia on the agreement?
Under Biden’s leadership, the United States expressed interest in resuming JCPOA.
His administration views the resumption of the agreement as a stepping stone to a broader agreement that imposes stricter restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and covers missile testing and several other issues. As far as Iran is concerned, it has stated that it does not want to expand the agreement.
The other signatories of the agreement are keen to get the United States back into the agreement and ensure that Iran complies with its terms.
European powers have repeatedly urged their ally Washington to return to the agreement.
At the same time, Chinese President Xi Jinping made it clear that he supports Iran’s “reasonable demands” for the future of the agreement, while Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow, as an ally of Iran, hopes to fully restore the agreement under the initial terms.
Special envoys from Russia and China joined representatives from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union and Iran itself to participate in talks aimed at saving the agreement.