Nearly five months after hardliner Ebrahim Raisi was elected president of Iran, the Islamic republic and western powers have finally agreed a date on which to resume stalled talks in Vienna about reviving the nuclear deal.
But a few days after announcing the November 29 talks last week, Iranian officials expressed serious doubts about whether negotiations with representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China on an agreement abandoned by U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 will be possible. Great results have been achieved.
Although US and European officials said they were about to reach an agreement with Raisi’s moderate predecessor Hassan Rouhani, the hardliners who now dominate Tehran have made it clear that they do not expect much progress.
“Holding nuclear talks is not our top priority, because Iran’s new strategy is not to rely on JCPOA. [nuclear deal] Stop investing in things that have failed,” said a regime insider close to the hardliner.
“The other party will participate in the talks and tell Iran’You are a bad boy.’ Iran, which is committed to diplomacy and negotiation, will respond calmly and put its wish list on the table. The United States may think that this is too costly and unacceptable. “
According to the 2015 agreement, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. Trump subsequently accused Iran of violating the spirit of the agreement, becoming a “main sponsor of terrorism” and implementing an ambitious ballistic missile program. He imposed severe sanctions on the country, and these sanctions still exist.
The new Iranian president believes that even under sanctions, the country’s economy can flourish by increasing domestic production and promoting trade relations with neighboring countries. The Islamic regime, which expanded its uranium enrichment activities after the United States re-imposed sanctions, does not believe in the promise of US President Joe Biden that Washington will return to the agreement, provided that Iran also resumes full compliance.
As Iran fears that Trump may regain power in the 2024 U.S. election, the Iranian authorities have asked Biden to “guarantee” that the future U.S. government will not abandon the agreement.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdorahian also stated that as a gesture of goodwill and a first step, the United States can release Iran’s US$10 billion of funds frozen in overseas banks. This is a possible meeting for the republic this month. The conditions set forth in.
“The US president who does not have much power is not prepared to provide assurances,” Iran’s top security official Ali Shamhani said on Wednesday. “If the current situation does not change, the result [November] The negotiation will be clear from now on. ”
Hardliners question whether Biden can stay the course. “Biden is weak and unable to reach an agreement with Iran at home,” a person familiar with the matter said. “Can he release Iranian money with so much opposition? [to Iran] In Congress and Senate? The answer is no. “
In the previous rounds, the European Union hosted a joint committee meeting in the basement of a luxury hotel in Vienna, and led a shuttle diplomacy between the Iranian envoy and the US delegation in a nearby hotel. This is unlikely to change. Rob Marley, Washington’s special envoy for Iran, will travel to Vienna to participate in the talks, but he is not expected to participate directly in the talks.
“Iran will negotiate with the United States only when we see a real change in practice,” another Iranian insider added. “But considering all the political obstacles between Iran and the United States, there will be no negotiations with the United States in the foreseeable future, and no agreement will be reached.”
The EU is also cautious about the potential for major breakthroughs. But EU officials emphasized that just getting a promise to restart negotiations is already an achievement. “We don’t talk about it anymore. This is a good thing,” said a senior EU diplomat. “We will actually go back to the negotiating table.”
Last month, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany — as well as the United States — accused Iran of rapidly advancing its nuclear program and obstructing the IAEA’s monitoring efforts. This shows how difficult the negotiations may be, which shows that the negotiations may “endanger”[ing] The possibility of returning to JCPOA”.
The four countries said, “Only when Iran changes its course can progress be made… This is the only reliable way to avoid a dangerous escalation. This is not in the interest of any country.”
The Iranian director of the International Crisis Group, Ali Waz, said that the new Iranian team led by Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani may focus on historical grievances rather than making actual progress in reaching an agreement.
“I don’t think anyone wants to terminate these negotiations prematurely. But… if Iran’s position is absolutely uncompromising, then due to the increasing speed of Iran’s nuclear program, there is no need to waste time,” Vaz said.
Western analysts warn that if negotiations are delayed into the new year, the hope for an agreement will diminish. US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday that the United States still believes that it is still possible to “swiftly reach and implement an understanding on both sides to re-comply with the Convention.” [2015 nuclear pact]”But at some point, Iran’s progress will make returning to the agreement “not worthwhile as the proposal of the United States and our partner.”