Iran’s religious authorities, emboldened by a jump in oil prices since Russia invaded Ukraine, are not in a rush to resurrect a 2015 nuclear deal with Western powers to lift sanctions on its energy-dependent economy.
Last year, the Islamic Republic held indirect negotiations with the US in the hopes of removing US sanctions that have slashed income and exacerbated economic woes for ordinary people, causing unrest. However, the discussions have been on hold since March, owing to Iran’s demand that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Tehran’s top security organization, be removed from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.
While the ultimate goal remains to resuscitate the deal and have sanctions eased, Iranian authorities claim that rising oil prices have provided Iran with a window of opportunity by raising earnings, allowing the country months of breathing room. “Our nuclear program is progressing as anticipated, and time is on our side,” a senior Iranian official said, declining to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media about sensitive policy concerns.
Iran’s Finances Under Pressure
Requests for comment from Iran’s foreign ministry, which is in charge of the nuclear talks, were not immediately returned. Iran’s finances were put under severe strain in 2018 when then-US President Donald Trump scrapped the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which had been approved by his predecessor Barack Obama, and reimposed sanctions that severely reduced oil revenues, which are used to fund the country’s sprawling state apparatus. Iran’s oil exports have dropped from a high of 2.8 million barrels per day in 2018 to as low as 200,000 barrels per day. Iran has the world’s fourth-largest crude reserves.
A year later, Tehran retaliated by gradually breaking the deal’s nuclear restrictions, including rebuilding enriched uranium stockpiles, refining it to higher fissile purity, and installing advanced centrifuges to speed up output, reducing the time it would take to develop a nuclear bomb if it so desired. Tehran claims to be exclusively interested in peaceful nuclear energy.