Iran’s Supreme Leader hosts Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Tehran, May 11, 2022

Iran’s officials have loudly denied a “compromise” by the Supreme Leader in the stalled talks over a renewed nuclear deal between Tehran and the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia).

On Friday, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, at a press conference in Germany, expressed optimism that Iran and the US can find a resolution. The German newspaper Handelsblatt quoted him as saying that, during his meetings in Tehran earlier this month, the “Iranian leadership” had “the Iranian nuclear file…under review”.

Iran Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh responded late Saturday, “It is very clear from the context of the leader’s remarks that the ball is in the US court, which must make wise political decisions to fulfill its obligations.”

The Vienna talks were close to agreement earlier this year on the main issues of US re-entry into the 2015 nuclear deal, the lifting of American sanctions on Tehran, and Iran’s return to compliance with the terms.

But the discussions hit a roadblock over Iran’s demand that the US lift its designation, imposed by the Trump Administration in 2019, of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a “foreign terrorist organization”. The Americans are asking for an Iranian non-nuclear concession in return.

Europeans to US: Find a Resolution

The headlines over the Supreme Leader’s alleged “compromise” overtook stories of European calls for US moves towards a resolution.

Former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt wrote in a joint editorial for The Washington Post last week that US President Joe “Biden must seriously consider the costs of his passivity vis-a-vis Iran and find a way forward — or we may find ourselves in another conflict that no one asked for”.

A French Foreign Ministry spokesperson said:

[The talks are] being held up by an issue between the United States and Iran that is not related to the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Agreement].

We call on the parties to take a responsible approach and to urgently make the decisions that are needed to finalize this agreement. It would be a serious, dangerous mistake to believe it can remain on the table indefinitely.

The European Union’s Enrique Mora met Iranian officials in Tehran last week to rejuvenate the talks. Analysts said the visit produced an improvement in the diplomatic atmosphere; however, US officials downplayed any advance.

See also EU’s Mora in “Difficult” Discussions in Iran over Stalled Nuclear Talks

A “European diplomat” warned:

Every day which passes without achieving agreement, the risk to lose everything increases considerably.

As far as I see it, both sides are going into different directions and the distance is not narrowing down.