The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also referred to as the 2015 nuclear deal, was inked between Iran and the P5+1 (China France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States).
The deal was jeopardised in 2017 after the then US president Donald Trump unilaterally pulled his country out of the pact. His regime re-imposed sanctions on Iran, thereby crippling its economy. In response, Tehran violated its end of the deal and began to enrich uranium — signalling its intent to develop nuclear weapons.
After Joe Biden took over as the US President, feelers were sent to the Iranian regime, which culminated in the talks between the two sides in Vienna. If the deal is revived, the sanctions against Iran would be lifted, likely in lieu of the country re-committing itself to the 2015 deal.
The election of a hardliner candidate is unlikely to derail Iranian participation in the Vienna talks, given that Ayatollah Khamenei supports it, experts point out.
"Despite his image as a figure above factional politics, Khamenei is an astute politician who recognises that Iran’s persistent economic crisis and social problems have long undermined the clerical regime’s legitimacy in the eyes of the people. Iranians have repeatedly risked open protests to express their dissatisfaction with the Islamic regime," Ashwarya said.
"The Vienna talks and potential sanctions relief serve to calm people’s nerves while also holding out the prospect of a better economic future without jeopardising the Islamic regime’s ideology or existence," she added.
"It makes no difference whether a hardliner wins the election as long as Khamenei agrees to the talks and there is no challenge to clerical supremacy. The IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guards Council) fully supports Khamenei; I see no chinks in this armour. As a result, Khamenei continues to be the final arbiter of Iranian participation in the P5+1 and Iran's negotiations," the professor further said.
A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and representatives of United States, Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria in July 2015. (Image: Reuters/Carlos Barria)
If a hardliner wins, the chances of political wrangling and internecine conflicts over a renegotiated nuclear deal would also be minimised, as Iran’s executive branch will be perfectly aligned with other state institutions such as the parliament, judiciary and the IRGC.
Israel, however, is expected to continue with its bid to derail the nuclear talks. Netanyahu on June 3 said he would take the risk of "friction" with the US in his attempt to stop the nuclear deal from being revived.
Even with a rejigged political leadership, Israel is not expected to show relent in its campaign against the JCPOA. Notably, the Bennett-Lapid coalition has announced that they would retain the country's incumbent Defence Minister Benny Gantz.
"Israel does not believe Iran will follow through on a deal limiting its nuclear capability and believes Iran will cheat at some point to become a nuclear power. In such a scenario, Israel’s ‘qualitative military edge’ and strategic superiority in the region would be permanently weakened, and no amount of international assurance could guarantee Israel’s security in perpetuity," Ashwarya opined.