US-Iran Prisoner Swap Agreement Demonstrates The Growing Power Of Iran
The Islamic Republic has managed to secure its membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), as well as the BRICS economic alliance.
Despite the West’s imposition of new sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its virtue signaling over the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, the recently implemented prisoner exchange agreement with the United States demonstrates the growing power of Tehran. After countless attempts to destabilize the West Asian nation, Iran proved itself as a primary regional player and scored a major diplomatic achievement.
On Monday, five prisoners held in Iran and five others held in the United States were released as Washington decided to unfreeze billions in Iranian assets. The news came amidst a storm of criticism from domestic opponents of the Biden White House, along with hopeful analyses that depicted what the deal could signal in terms of a future revival of the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. However, what has been missed here is the success story of this prisoner exchange from the Iranian perspective.
When US President, Joe Biden, entered the White House, he did so on the back of a campaign that included a number of foreign policy pledges. While criticizing Tehran, Biden proclaimed that he would renegotiate the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), a pledge that he has so far failed to deliver on. After the collapse of a year-long series of indirect negotiations back in June of 2022, that were centered in the Austrian Capital, Vienna, tensions began to once again rise between the US and Iran. In fact, the US sent three thousand additional troops to the Middle East back in early August, in an effort to beef up its military presence in the Gulf area.
The US continues to work in opposition to Iran’s regional agenda and that of its allies, including through the imposition of new sanctions on individuals who are allegedly related to Tehran’s drone and military aircraft development; which occurred just one day after the prisoner swap was enacted. However, such sanctions, similar to those that have been frequently slapped onto Iranian individuals throughout Biden’s term in office, are little more than symbolic slaps. Right now, the US Biden administration's new sanctions are a bid to save face, in the midst of staunch criticism of his prisoner exchange agreement from the Republican Party opposition.
When it comes to the 2015 Nuclear Deal, one of the biggest issues that Biden has to face in attempting to revive it is that he will face a massive backlash in Congress and especially as he heads into the 2024 elections this won't be a good look for him. Therefore, instead of pushing for the rejuvenation of the nuclear deal, he seeks a photo opportunity in the form of securing a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and “Israel”. Despite seeking this deal, which will be used as an example of a crowning foreign policy achievement for the Biden administration, there are a number of external factors that first have to be dealt with, and at the top of that list is the American relationship with Iran.
The Islamic Republic has managed to secure its membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), as well as the BRICS economic alliance. In the past years, Iran has formed a closer bond with Moscow, agreed to rapprochement with its long-time adversary Saudi Arabia under Chinese auspices and has continued to demonstrate its growing military capabilities. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the other hand, has also been accepted into the BRICS alliance and demonstrates its valuing of Beijing’s friendship.
Interestingly, the Israeli regime has been completely silent over the Iran-US prisoner exchange. This is unusual for the occupying entity, as it usually piles on against any positive gestures towards Tehran from the West. The reasoning behind this, may be that the Americans have set forth a plan to try and calm tensions with the Iranian government, in the belief that granting some concessions may keep Iran silent in the event of Saudi-Israeli normalization. Washington-based think tanks have even suggested that the planned Israeli normalization deal that the US is seeking, could spark war regionally, which may have played a part in the de-escalatory move that was just taken by the Americans.
While the US attempts to appear as if it is combating the influence of Iran in the Middle East, in reality it has accepted that the Iranian government is here to stay and that it is a primary player regionally. As countless attempts are made to attack the image of the Islamic Republic, to encourage unrest and to appear as if the US is still the top dog, the Biden administration knows what is needed if it is going to achieve its desired policy goals. What this demonstrates, if nothing else, is that American power in West Asia is fading and the policy makers in Washington are finally catching up to the reality on the ground.