Issue 1 – November 2021 – Editorial

A publication of the METO University Network

by Lara Rendl*

The announcement to resume talks on Iran’s nuclear weapons programme and the economic sanctions resulting from it certainly marks a proper start for the first edition of The Bright Side, which we dedicate to sharing good news from the Middle East.

In this newsletter and the ones to come, we take a step back from the stories on conflict and destruction that dominate the news landscape of the Middle East. By focusing on progress in Human Rights, healthcare, or education, we give a platform for positive change and those who drive it.

What then could be a better way to introduce a bulletin full of good news than the prospect of finally getting the Iran Nuclear Deal back on track?

The change of tone of US Foreign Minister Blinken on diplomacy as the best path forward and Iranian diplomat Ali Bagheri’s tweet promising to resume talks in November 2021 have been eagerly anticipated ever since the change of government in Tehran.

Back in 2016, the JCPOA became a diplomatic landmark when its ambitious discussions finally reached an agreement which provided benefits both for Iran and the international community. Economic sanctions on Iran were then lifted in exchange for a strict limitation on its nuclear activities. It was meant to turn the page on a previously rocky relationship between the US and Iran.

After the US, under the Trump Administration, withdrew from in 2018, Iran moved progressively away from its pledges to limit the number of centrifuges, the level of uranium enrichment and the size of its stockpile of enriched uranium. Consequently, tensions with the US grew and translated into new economic sanctions, and the killing of the Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani in 2020. Now, after negotiations came to a halt before President Raisi’s election in Iran, it seems that ambitions to revive the deal are flaring up again.

Cautious optimism resonates in other states in the region although some sceptics remain. Saudi Arabia stated that they should have been consulted due to their geographical exposure to nuclear weapons. In return, Israel’s new defence minister Benny Gantz showed more support than previous governments who opposed the JCPOA. However, Israeli news sources also underline that the US would not rule out military action against Iran, should the talks remain unsuccessful.

Surely, disagreements lie ahead. Whilst Iran seems to prefer the original JCPOA agreement on sanction relief, the US has shown interest in renegotiating a new deal, which Iran has ruled out. At the same time, Iran’s priority lies in trade relations. According to Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, lifting the economic sanctions is the very condition for the success of the Vienna talks.

Therefore, a fruitful outcome of the discussions between Iran and the P5+1 remains far from certain. Nevertheless, the talks show both Iran’s, and the P5+1’s willingness to negotiate and is very welcome. In fact, the prospect of fresh diplomatic relations to reduce the risk of hostile nuclear activity in the Middle East is a clear positive development. And The Bright Side is here to report on it.

* Lara Rendl is a MA student in Science and International Security in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. Her studies focus on current security issues and the science underlying nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. As a graduate student researcher for METO, she analyses disarmament and conflict resolution in the Middle East. She previously interned at the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs representing the Secretariat in the Conference of Disarmament, the meeting of the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Lara Rendl holds a Bachelor’s in European Social and Political Studies from University College London.

Our Team

This bulletin is bought to you by the following members of the METO University Network:

Giada Del Russo (Coordinator & Environment)
Soukaina El anaoui (Human Rights)
Lara Rendl (Disarmament and Conflict Resolution)
Aayushi Sharma (Migrations)
Tony Robinson (Healthcare)

Arwa Syed (Food & Water Security)
Tamyra Selvarajan (Energy)
Paternus Niyegira (Education)

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The articles selected for publication in this bulletin have been specially chosen in order to highlight the good work done every day across the region in order to improve the quality of life for citizens. It also highlights the advances in culture and the new archaelogical discoveries in the region, underlining that this region really has been a cradle of civilization for millenia.

The views expressed in the linked articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the Middle East Treaty Organization and their inclusion in our bulletin should not be interpreted in any way other than we think they’re interesting stories that should be more widely known. We will never intentionally include articles that promote or condone violence and discrimination in any form.

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