Washington DC – Indirect negotiations between Iran and the United States to revive the nuclear power agreement will start again next week after a long hiatus that cast doubt on the prospects of restoring the landmark agreement.
While a breakthrough not expected, analysts said the talks that would begin in Vienna on November 29 would shed light on how Tehran would approach conservative diplomacy President Ibrahim Raisi, whose government has increased Iranian demands before returning to the agreement.
“We are going to find out how different it is [Iranian] hardliners are from previous hardliners; we will find out if they will be a little softer, ”says Negar Mortazavi, an Iranian-American journalist and analyst.
“And we’re also going to find out if the Americans really realized they missed an opportunity, and that they need to change their position to some degree.”
Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. was in charge.
Six rounds of talks in Vienna between April and June failed to find a way back into the deal. “That golden opportunity window was short, and the Biden team completely missed it,” Mortazavi told Al Jazeera.
With conservatives in power in Tehran, Iran struggling to reverse nuclear expertise and Biden appearing reluctant to unilaterally ease sanctions, Mortazavi said she was “cautiously pessimistic” about the chances of the talks succeeding.
But the fact that Iran has agreed to return to the negotiating table in the Austrian capital is a welcome sign of diplomacy, experts said.
Progressive groups have called on Biden to pursue “goodwill gestures” toward Iran ahead of the talks, such as thawing some of Iran’s assets held under US sanctions for humanitarian purposes.
Despite branding former President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran as a failure, the Biden administration continued to enforce Trump-era sanctions while imposing new ones of his own.
Trump lifted the multilateral nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018. Biden has promised to rectify this, emphasizing that diplomacy is the best option to include Iran’s nuclear program.
Meanwhile, Iran has escalated its nuclear program, which has been curtailed by the treaty. It enriches uranium at 60 percent versus the 3.67 percent allowed by the deal. It also uses more advanced centrifuges.
Tehran maintains that its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes, but US officials warn that recent progress in Iran’s nuclear program has significantly reduced the “breakout time” required by Iran to gather enough material for a nuclear weapon.
Iranian officials have insisted that their country’s violations of the JCPOA are in response to US sanctions and that Iran is still a party to the agreement, unlike the US. They said Washington, as the side that abandoned the agreement, should lift all sanctions.
“Until the violating and non-compliant party to the agreement demonstrates in practice its commitment to the JCPOA, there is no reason for Iran to relinquish its rights and claims guaranteed by the agreement,” Ali Bagheri Kani , Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, who will lead the Iranian negotiating team in Vienna, told Al Jazeera earlier this week.
Broader American diplomacy
Sina Azodi, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council brainstorm, also said Biden had “wasted a golden opportunity” by not starting negotiations sooner – but finding a workable agreement is still possible.
He suggested working on an interim agreement that would lead to the easing of some US sanctions and the halting of Iran’s nuclear progress to buy time for more comprehensive negotiations. However, one of the challenges will be to address the core knowledge that Iran has acquired.
“You can not really destroy the knowledge and experience that the Iranians have already gained,” Azodi told Al Jazeera. “Whether the US will be right with that, I’m not sure.”
US and Israeli officials have sounded the alarm over nuclear escalation. Israel, which opposes the JCPOA, has threatened “to act” any moment against Iran. Biden and his top assistants also argued “other options”Against Iran as diplomacy failed.
The US envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, told National Public Radio (NPR) this week that the US was looking at “other efforts – diplomacy and otherwise” if the Iranians chose not to return to the JCPOA. “If they start getting too close, too close for convenience, then of course we will not be willing to sit still,” he said.
But the Biden administration remains active on the diplomatic front.
The US is on its way to Vienna after its Arab partners in the Gulf region, during a visit by Malley last week to the region, offered public support for U.S. efforts to restore the JCPOA. Washington’s Gulf allies, especially Riyadh, have previously been in open opposition to the agreement.
In a joint statement on November 17, the working group of the US and the Gulf Cooperation Council on Iran said that a return to full compliance with the agreement “will help pave the way for inclusive diplomatic efforts to address all issues that necessary to ensure sustainable security, safety and prosperity in the region ”.
Ryan Costello, policy director at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a Washington-based group campaigning for diplomacy with Iran, called the statement “significant.”
“Now we have tested the alternative to the JCPOA – maximum pressure – and it has really weakened security in the region, which has led to attacks. on oil tankers, and did not benefit anyone. And as Trump has shown, the US is not necessarily going to fight [the Gulf nations’] fight for them, ”Costello told Al Jazeera.
The Biden administration also tried to align its position with the three European signatories to the agreement, known as the E3 – Germany, the United Kingdom and France. Malley too discussions held with Russian and Chinese diplomats last week.
“Because the Saudis and Emirati at least do not oppose it, do not try to undermine the negotiations, I think it is a positive step,” Azodi said.
US domestic challenges
Yet the resumption of the Vienna talks comes at a politically charged moment for Biden domestically.
The administration calls on Congress to adopt an ambitious $ 1.75 trillion social spending plan before important midterm elections a year from now, while also dealing with rising inflation and an increase in COVID-19 infections as the world struggles to end the pandemic.
In terms of foreign policy, Biden is still concerned about the consequences of the chaotic withdrawal of Afghanistan who saw that some Republicans had asked for his resignation. And while the JCPOA, in public opinion, still enjoys the support of the American public polls, some of the top Democrats in Congress seem skeptical about the agreement and Republicans are almost unanimously opposed to it.
The agreement can be restored through executive action, but it requires political capital from the president, whose Democratic Party has a slim majority in the Senate and House of Representatives. Any U.S. concessions to Iran are likely to provoke criticism at home.
Costello said ongoing domestic issues and the narrow margins in Congress “limit attention to international affairs,” making it difficult for the president to push through major foreign policy initiatives that are controversial.
“I think it’s another factor that slowed things down in the first half of this year by liaising with Iran again,” he said.