Tehran, Iran | Xinhua | At a time when the Iranian nuclear talks are about to reach an agreement, Iran and world powers have adjourned their talks, mostly over whether the United States will remove Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) from its Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.
While negotiations in the Austrian capital of Vienna stalled a year after they began, Tehran and Washington have ramped up their rhetorical war, demanding political decisions from the other side to bridge the final gap.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Thursday that his country “does not pay attention to excessive demands nor will it retreat from its red lines.”
Iran has so far insisted on its position with no signs that it may budge any time soon, said Iran’s English daily newspaper Tehran Times, adding that “in fact, the odds are currently against any change in Iran’s position.”
Such a firm approach to Vienna talks has recently been praised by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who “expressed his satisfaction with the resistance of the negotiating team to the other sides’ aggression and avarice,” according to his official website.
“The other side withdrew from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and broke its commitments. Now they feel helpless and have reached a dead end,” Khamenei said, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal.
According to the reports provided by Amir-Abdollahian and Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani, “the red lines of the system have not been crossed in any way in the Vienna talks,” Jalil Rahimi Jahan Abadi, a member of the Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying last week.
“The United States not only has not achieved anything since leaving the JCPOA, but even Iran’s position has become stronger and more coherent in recent years than when the United States was present in the JCPOA,” the Iranian lawmaker pointed out.
In the United States, following media reports that President Joe Biden’s administration has considered dropping the IRGC terrorist designation, more congressmen have voiced opposition to any potential deal with Iran. It would be politically untenable to make such a concession to Iran, Biden’s advisers suggested.
“If Iran wants sanctions-lifting that goes beyond the JCPOA, they’ll need to address concerns of ours that go beyond the JCPOA,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday.
“If they do not want to use these talks to resolve other bilateral issues, then we are confident we can very quickly reach an understanding on the JCPOA and begin to reimplement the deal itself,” he said.
Iran believes that the Trump administration’s move to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization was “politically motivated and designed to make it difficult, if not impossible, for the Biden administration to resuscitate the JCPOA,” according to Tehran Times.
Washington “does not seem to be ready to take the initiative in terms of concluding the Vienna talks. Quite on the contrary, it keeps sending signals that it is not ready to make the kind of political decisions Iran demands,” the newspaper said in a recent op-ed titled “U.S. inaction could doom Vienna talks.”
“The U.S. has halted progress for a nuclear deal. Biden is weak in dealing with political opponents,” Mohammad Marandi, an adviser to Iran’s negotiating team in the Vienna talks, tweeted recently.
DIPLOMACY STILL OPEN
Despite the war of words, “the diplomatic path is working properly, and we have not gone far from a good and lasting deal,” Amir-Abdollahiann said.
Meanwhile, Price said Washington is also prepared for a return to full JCPOA implementation, while EU’s mediators continued to send messages and work to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion.
“Tehran and Washington are close to a deal, but both sides need to give and take to achieve the wider benefits” of a renewed JCPOA, Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior policy fellow and deputy head of the Middle East and North Africa program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in an article.
It would be “foolish for Washington to jeopardize the opportunity to contain Tehran’s nuclear program over the lifting of what is a largely symbolic designation of the IRGC,” while for Iran, delaying the return to the nuclear deal comes with a high price tag in terms of opportunities lost for its economy, she said.
According to Geranmayeh, “a number of reasonable compromises are in circulation.” One option reportedly under review is to remove the IRGC’s FTO designation but keep on the list its elite Quds Force, which carries out operations in the Middle East.
Also, a group of nuclear nonproliferation experts and former government officials on Thursday urged the White House to complete negotiations to restore compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, saying that “a prompt return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA is the best available way to deny Iran the ability to quickly produce bomb-grade nuclear material.”
“Repeating the failed strategy pursued by the Trump administration is misguided, irresponsible, and dangerous as it would increase the danger that Iran would become a threshold nuclear-weapon state,” they warned.
Since April 2021, eight rounds of talks, during which Iran and the United States have negotiated indirectly, have been held in Vienna to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, which former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to drop some of its nuclear commitments. ■