by Viktor Mikhen, …with New Eastern Outlook, Moscow,…and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a research institution for the study of the countries and cultures of Asia and North Africa.
[ Editor’s Note: A renewed JCPOA deal remains up in the air. The participants, especially Iran, have worked hard to publicize that there is a growing list of achievements on what has been agreed to.
But the catch there is that forming a new agreement will hinge on the last few items in dispute, which are also the biggest and hence the most risky politically for those viewed as being on the losing side. To that you can add how the spinmeisters will define ‘losing side’, which is both a diplomatic and public relations art in itself.
The Zionists are lurking in the background, wanting Iran to be shackled in two ways, keeping the lock in its nuclear program, while Israel continues to do whatever it wants with its own nuclear program, and tagging Iran as the major threat in the region when it is actually Israel.
It suffers no interference into its own program, despite having used nuclear weapons in the theater, most recently in Lebanon with the destruction of its port with its gauze thin cover of fireworks and regular fertilizer as blame. But VT completely demolished that ploy, and no one with a reputation to lose countered it.
If Biden rejoins the deal, then Israel will pick American’s pocket for at least $1 billion, which might go into its own nuclear program. If it did, and American Intel and our military knew, the public would be the last ones they would tell. Welcome to that world, the conundrum of “against all enemies, foreign and domestic’.
“All in all, we made good progress, but there are issues left [unresolved], without which an agreement couldn’t be reached, and which have yet to be decided,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told reporters at the end of the fifth round of talks between Iran and P4+1 group of countries on revitalizing the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on Thursday.
“It is not us but…the signatories to the JCPOA and the United States that must…take their own difficult decisions and adapt themselves to the positions of the Islamic Republic,” Araqchi said. “If this happens, we can naturally reach an agreement. Otherwise, we will either have no agreement or hold more consultations.”
Following 10 days of intensive talks, the negotiating delegations concluded that they needed to return to their capitals once again for almost week-long consultations, the Iranian diplomat said, adding that this round of negotiations was not halted but was just adjourned in order to reach better conclusions about the remaining unsolved issues.
“Nothing can be predicted in diplomatic negotiations by 100 percent. Rationally, the next round of talks could be the final one,” he said.
He added that the five parties to the JCPOA – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – and the United States had to make their “difficult decisions” and adapt their positions to those of Iran.
“It is important that we have held several discussions about the main points of difference. There are solutions to each of them, which should be discussed and the best one should be selected,” Araqchi said.
He once again insisted on the country’s “definitive positions” which had not been changed and stressed the importance of adopting strategies for the US return to the JCPOA and the fulfillment of its obligations as per the deal, as well as Iran’s assumption of commitments after verifying Washington’s moves “in a way agreed upon by the two sides and in a way that it would serve our interests.”
He said the negotiating teams have completed drafting texts pertaining to different parts of the talks and are making their stances closer “almost in most of the texts…but there are some key issues, which the [two] sides have yet to decide.” … Jim W. Dean ]
First published … May 28, 2021
In recent days, conflicting reports have regularly emerged about the outcome of the ongoing Vienna talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, leading to the question of the extent to which the United States will lift the Trump-era sanctions imposed on Tehran.
Many experts believe that the reports coming from Iran reflect some leaks that the Islamic regime is already declaring victory at the negotiating table with the Joe Biden administration, pegging the lifting of the sanctions that the Iranians sought at a 90-95 percent chance.
Richard Goldberg, a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on Iranian negotiations and sanctions, believes that the Washington administration appears to have proposed lifting a wide range of sanctions imposed on Iran by the Trump administration, including due to its “sponsorship of terrorism and ballistic missile program ”.
Reports stated that the sanctions that US negotiators may agree to lift could include sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran, the National Iranian Oil Company, the National Iranian Tanker Company, and its National Petrochemical Company in exchange for Tehran re-entering the nuclear deal.
In an attempt to seize the initiative, Washington administration officials spoke out against reports in Iranian state-run media outlets that America and Iran had allegedly reached an agreement to lift the sanctions against the Islamic Republic as part of behind-the-scenes talks between the two countries to re-establish the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who appeared on ABC News This Week with George Stephanopoulos, denied reports from Tehran that the negotiations had ended in an agreement.
“There is still quite a distance to go to close the remaining gaps,” he stated, adding that work will continue in the near future. In addition, the US also rejected claims put forth by Iran that it had reached an agreement on exchanging prisoners.
Israeli politicians, who are following the Vienna talks very closely, believe the United States may be giving more than it would get in an attempt to return to the initial deal. The Iranians are agreeing to come to an agreement that is already terminating in their favor, writes The Jewish Week, with some conditions involving a decline that already began last year, when the international arms embargo was lifted.
That really does not make any sense from the point of view of the US negotiating stance. It is necessary to reject, the newspaper continues, existing historical leverage in exchange for adhering to a deal that is already flawed deal whose validity period is already expiring.
Easing sanctions, the Israelis stated, would also run counter to the policies introduced during the Obama administration, which allowed the United States to impose economic sanctions on Iran for activities not related to its pursuit of nuclear weapons, such as “supporting terrorism” and developing and distributing conventional long-range missiles.
Evidently, in the opinion of many Israelis who think too highly of themselves, Iran should only have small arms left over from WWI in service.
Throughout all the current negotiations, Iran has clearly and directly stated that it will not join the JCPOA unless the sanctions that were introduced during the Trump administration, and were not part of the original nuclear deal, are also repealed.
This issue, according to Tehran, is one that is perfectly clear – and not subject to any debate. The Joe Biden administration agrees with this, and now claims the sanctions are illegal under the nuclear deal, something which even US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken agreed with during his Senate confirmation hearing.
This means that the real question is if the Joe Biden administration is going to rescind the “terrorist and missile sanctions” imposed on Iran, and not require that Iranians declare all their undisclosed activities in the nuclear power industry, then would that somehow be in the interests of US national security interests, The Washington Post asked.
On top of all this, today we see a Middle East that has fundamentally changed from what it was in 2015, thanks to the Abraham Accords and the prospect of relations between the Arabs and Israelis continuing to normalize, the newspaper continued.
At the same time, US President Joe Biden told Mossad Director Yossi Cohen that negotiations still have a long way to go to reach an agreement. Senior Israeli officials have been to Washington to voice their concerns about a possible return to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Barbara Slavin, the director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told JNS that she remains “cautiously optimistic” that the Vienna talks will lead to a reciprocal renewal of JCPOA compliance on the part of Iran and the US.
The Biden administration has pledged to lift all sanctions “incompatible” with the deal, and I interpret this as sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran, the National Iranian Oil Company, and its shipping industry, as well as other important economic actors like Iran’s auto industry, the expert said.
Many politicians and experts legitimately believe that while the deal remains controversial, both Washington and Tehran want to revive it. Tehran could raise the stakes – for example, by demanding that more sanctions that fall within the purview of the nuclear deal be lifted, such as the previous administration’s sanctions on Iran’s metallurgical industry, construction industry, and the financial holdings of its leaders that are still in force.
Iran will also try to have the US exclude the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the list of foreign terrorist organizations; in 2019, the organization was added.
Even if an agreement is reached to bring Iran back to the nuclear deal, experts are wondering whether Iran will actually honor the deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency is investigating Iran for concealing undisclosed nuclear activities and materials, which violates not only the JCPOA, but also the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
While there little constitutional support exists for the Iranian deal, the Joe Biden administration can simply remove the Iranian threat from the table, and focus on other parts of its international agenda.
For its part, Tehran has demonstrated its willingness in good faith to revive the deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will expire in a few weeks, stating that prolonging the temporary deal will depend on whether the Vienna talks go in the right direction.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that as Tehran sees it extending the cooperation agreement with the IAEA is one of the options for how the situation could develop. He made that announcement the day after Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei announced his readiness to renew the agreement.
He was referring to the February deal between Iran and the IAEA, which allowed the latter to continue its surveillance activities in the run-up to the passing of a parliamentary nuclear law that obliges the Iranian government to severely restrict cooperation with the IAEA if the West does not repeal sanctions.
This agreement was reached during a two-day visit by IAEA Director Rafael Mariano Grossi to Iran, during which he met and held productive talks with the director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, and the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Along with that, Iranian leadership has resorted to the policy of the stick over the carrot, pushing the United States to take what is, in the Iranians’ opinion, the right decision, meaning a swift return to JCPOA.
On April 13, Iran announced that it had informed the IAEA of its plan to begin 60 percent enrichment, which would entail installing 1,000 cutting-edge centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility. The decision follows an alleged Israeli act of sabotage at a facility that is one of the facilities under UN jurisdiction under the 2015 nuclear deal.
It is quite apparent that the ongoing negotiations in Vienna are very difficult, with each side is trying to vie for advantage. However, taking into account that Iran has been under a sanctions regime since the beginning of the Islamic revolution in 1979, then at this stage the Iranians will not take any risks, and can afford to wait another 2, 3, or 5 years. Joe Biden’s administration cannot look that far ahead, and it is not clear what will happen in the next presidential election in 4 years.
In addition, Washington is under tremendous pressure from Israel and the Jewish lobby in the United States itself, adding on top of that a negative reaction to the Vienna talks from the Arab states in the Persian Gulf region, which Donald Trump contemptuously called “cash cows”. All of these difficult constituent aspects should predetermine the future results of the Vienna talks.
Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.