European Union’s Enrique Mora (C) and Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani (R) at the Vienna nuclear talks, December 9, 2021 (AFP/Getty)
UPDATE, SEPT 20:
The European Union’s coordination of the Iran nuclear talks, Josep Borrell, has reiterated that Tehran’s response has put any deal on hold.
“There is a proposal from the coordinator on the table and it will remain on the table. I don’t see a better solution and it won’t become caduc (null and void),” Borrell told reporters of the eve of the UN General Assembly session in New York.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna emphasized, “There will not be a better offer on the table and it’s up to Iran to take the right decisions.”
She and other Western diplomats confirmed that there are no initiatives at present to break the stalemate, following Iran’s reply to the EU’s “final text” at the start of September.
Tehran is insisting on a halt or sharp restrictions on International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of its nuclear program.
The head of Iran’s nuclear energy agency, Mohammad Eslami, insisted on Monday, “There are indications that the IAEA intends to close the case of the three sites [undeclared locations where nuclear particles were discovered[. We hope that they will be honest and do not waste more time in order to pressure Iran.”
A “source close to Iran’s nuclear team” said Tehran has lost interest in reviving a deal that can only last until January 2025, the possible end of the Biden Administration’s term in the US.
“Our nuclear program is advancing every day and this time is on our side. Let them be worried about it,” the source postured.
UPDATE, SEPT 12:
The three European powers in the 2015 nuclear deal have signalled that Iran’s latest response may have doomed the talks to revive the agreement.
France, Germany, and the UK said in a Saturday statement, “Given Iran’s failure to conclude the deal on the table we will consult, alongside international partners, on how best to address Iran’s continued nuclear escalation and lack of cooperation with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] regarding its NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] safeguards agreement.”
The trio noted the final text of the European Union, sent to Tehran last month, with “additional changes that took us to the limit of our flexibility”:
Unfortunately, Iran has chosen not to seize this critical diplomatic opportunity. Instead, Iran continues to escalate its nuclear program way beyond any plausible civilian justification.
The statement specifically says that “Iran reopened separate issues” over “its legally binding international obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty”, by demanding limits on International Atomic Energy Agency inspections.
Our position remains clear and steadfast. Iran must fully and, without delay, cooperate in good faith with the IAEA. It is up to Iran to provide technically credible answers to the IAEA’s questions on the whereabouts of all nuclear material on its territory. The JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] can in no way be used to release Iran from legally binding obligations that are essential to the global non-proliferation regime.
Iranian State outlets have reacted by featuring the declaration of Seyed Mohammad Marandi, the spokesman for its nuclear negotiators, that the European powers and the US are “untrustworthy“.
Without referring to Iran’s demands over the IAEA, Marandi postures, “If the US/E3 had not dragged their feet in Vienna, there could have been a deal months ago”
UPDATE, SEPT 3:
Multiple sources confirm that Iran is insisting on the halt or strict limits on International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of its nuclear facilities, jeopardizing renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Tehran is asking for an explicit commitment of the closure of IAEA investigations, including of nuclear particles found in undisclosed sites before 2003, before any reimplementation of the agreement.
US and European officials say Iran had dropped the demand in their response of August 15 to the draft European Union “final text”, but have now reinstated it.
Iran has moved us very far back — at a time when, thanks to the EU coordinator’s perseverance, and everyone’s flexibility, we were almost there.
It’s very difficult to know whether this is fixable. In any case, Iran has given a clear signal it is not interested in a deal now.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre amplified the immediate US rejection of the latest Iran reply: “There should not be any conditionality between re-implementation of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and investigations related to Iran’s legal obligations under the Non-proliferation Treaty.”
Meanwhile, Iran has begun enrichment of uranium with hundreds of advanced centrifuges, which were banned under the 2015 deal.
While we keep going back and forth on the #JCPOA talks, Iran has in the past week started enriching with as many as 348 advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its underground Natanz plant, the IAEA has informed member states in two separate reports. 1/9
— François Murphy (@francoismurphy) September 2, 2022
UPDATE, SEPT 2:
The US has quickly rejected Iran’s response to the draft nuclear deal set out by the European Union.
After nine days of deliberation over the draft and American comments on its initial reply, Iran delivered its response at 3 a.m. Tehran time/6:30 p.m. Washington. It declared “a constructive approach” for “finalizing the negotiations”.
But a US State Department spokesman replied minutes later, “We can confirm that we have received Iran’s response through the EU. We are studying it and will respond through the EU, but unfortunately it is not constructive.”
A “senior Biden Administration official” said, ““We are studying Iran’s response, but the bottom line is that it is not at all encouraging. Based on their answer we appear to be moving backwards.”
A European diplomat said Tehran’s reply looked “negative and not reasonable”.
No details were given, but Iranian officials have indicated that they want to halt or sharply limit International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of nuclear facilities. Tehran has curbed IAEA monitoring, withholding video surveillance tapes and removing cameras, and is resisting the agency’s pursuit of an explanation of nuclear material found at three undisclosed sites before 2003.
The EU submitted the draft final text of the agreement on August 8. Iran responded a week later, with the US submitting its comments on August 24.
The negotiations are seeking a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal with a US return after the withdrawal by the Trump Administration in May 2018, the lifting of American sanctions on Tehran, and Iran’s return to compliance with the terms.
UPDATE 1648 GMT:
Iran has received the US response to Tehran’s comments on the European Union “final text”.
Nasser Kananni @IRIMFA_SPOX says Iran has received the US response to Iran's comments on the EU proposal to revive the JCPOA through the EU coordinator of the talks this evening. https://t.co/VjOCi0o9l2
— Adam Nima Pourahmadi (@ANPour) August 24, 2022
A “person familiar with the US response” said the document focuses on the issue of economic guarantees: “[It] falls short of Iran’s expectations. So now we have to see if they realize this is as good as it gets or decide to push for more.”
UPDATE, AUGUST 24:
The US is expected to deliver its response on Wednesday to Iran’s comments on a European Union “final text” for a renewed nuclear deal.
A “senior Administration official” e-mailed journalists on Tuesday that some US security concerns have been met by Tehran’s statement, issued on August 15.
The official said that, under the renewal of the 2015 deal, Iran will again be prohibited from enriching and stockpiling uranium above very limited levels. Iran will not be allowed to hold any 20% and 60% enriched uranium that it has produced since 2019, breaking the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Iran will also give up thousands of advanced centrifuges, including all of the centrifuges in the fortified underground facility at Fordow. Pursuit of a plutonium-based nuclear weapon will be blocked by a prohibition on reprocessing and the redesign of the Arak reactor that could be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium.
The official said that as a result, Iran would need at least six months to produce enriched uranium for one nuclear warhead if it left the deal.
The major obstacle to an agreement appears to be Iran’s insistence on limits of International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of nuclear facilities.
Iran has been censured by the IAEA Board of Governors for failing to provide information on nuclear material found at three undisclosed sites. Tehran — which was already withholding surveillance videos — responded by removing cameras from facilities.
Iran’s comments have reportedly demanded the closure of the file on its historic nuclear activities. On Wednesday, the outlet of the Supreme National Security Council, Nour News, attacked IAEA head Rafael Grossi.
The continued adoption of political approaches by the Director General of the IAEA in a situation that Western officials and media are optimistic about reaching an agreement, shows that Rafael Grossi is still the main obstacle to the finalization of the sanctions-lifting negotiations, along with the Zionist regime.
Grossi appealed in a televised interview on Monday, “Give us answers and access to people and places so we can clarify a lot of things that need to be clarified.”
The US official said that under the “final text” of the EU, “the IAEA would again be able to implement the most comprehensive inspections regime ever negotiated, allowing it to detect any Iranian effort to pursue a nuclear weapon covertly”.
The official said, “At this stage, I’m not sure Iran will say yes.”
The University of Tehran’s Seyed Mohammad Marandi, the English-language spokesperson for the Iranian delegation in the nuclear talks, signalled that Iran has dropped its demand that the US lift its 2019 designation of the Revolutionary Guards as a “foreign terrorist organization”. He lied that Tehran had never insisted on this as a precondition for a deal.
However, he reinforced Tehran’s demands over the IAEA:
Very misleading. I've said for MONTHS, removing the Guards from the FTO is not a precondition.
No deal will be implemented before the IAEA Board of Directors PERMANENTLY closes the false accusations file.
Iran's nuclear program will not be dismantled.https://t.co/J8OLsqlhwS
— Seyed Mohammad Marandi (@s_m_marandi) August 23, 2022
Mohammad Eslami, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said Wednesday, “We are committed to inspections in the framework of the nuclear deal that are linked to nuclear restrictions which we have accepted in the past… Not one word more, not one word less.”
UPDATE, AUGUST 16:
Facing a European Union deadline, Iran has delivered a response to the EU’s “final text” for revival of the 2015 nuclear deal.
The EU had called for agreement by all parties (Iran, US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia) by midnight on Monday. Iran did not give its assent, but a “senior Western official” said Tehran sent a response on Monday evening.
Nabila Massrali, a spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, confirmed Iran’s reply on Tuesday, “We are studying it and are consulting with the other JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] participants and the US on the way ahead.”
The Iranian response is focused on assurances over sanctions, guarantees that the deal will not be suspended, and safeguards including International Atomic Energy Agency inspections.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, chaired by President Ebrahim Raisi, held an extraordinary meeting on Monday afternoon.
The Western official said that while Iran wanted to continue discussions on some issues, its response was not “too inflammatory”.
Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a Tehran University academic and de facto English-language spokesman for Iran’s nuclear delegation, tweeted on Monday:
In its response Iran has expressed its concerns, but…the remaining issues are not very difficult to resolve. Those concerns are founded upon past US/EU violations. I can’t say that there will be a deal, but we’re closer than we’ve been before.
Marandi, who is usually hostile towards the US and European powers, signalled last month that Iran was dropping a key demand holding up the talks since March. The academic indicated that the Biden Administration did not have to removed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from a list of “foreign terrorist organizations”.
UPDATE, AUGUST 12:
A “senior Iranian diplomat” says the European Union’s draft to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal “can be acceptable if they provide Iran with assurance on the issues of safeguards, sanctions. and guarantees”.
On Monday, the EU put forward a “final” text after four days of indirect talks between Americans and Iranian officials in Vienna. Delegations returned to national capitals for consultations about the document.
A “senior EU official” made clear that there can be no more changes of the draft. He said he expects a final decision from all parties (Iran, US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia) within a “very, very few weeks”.
Iranian officials have publicly rejected that the text is “final”, reserving their position in saying they would convey their “additional views and considerations” after consultations in Tehran.
UPDATE, AUGUST 8:
Iran and the US are close to agreement on renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, says the European Union’s broker of the discussions.
Enrique Mora said on Sunday evening that the text of an agreement could be closed in forthcoming hours: “We were negotiating some technical questions that were open in the text. We are advancing and I expect that we will close this negotiation soon.”
A remaining obstacle is Iran’s demand that the International Atomic Energy Agency close its multi-year investigation of Tehran’s nuclear program.
The IAEA is examining the presence of nuclear material at three undeclared Iranian sites. Iran responded by limiting IAEA inspections and refusing to hand over surveillance videos.
Iran cut off more than 20 monitoring cameras on June 9, after the IAEA Board of Governors censured Tehran for failing to comply with inspections and to provide necessary information.
Western officials have said they will not intervene to close or set a deadline for the IAEA investigation. A “Western diplomat” said there will be no reference to any Iranian demand in the final text of an agreement.
There are no formal negotiations on Monday because of Iran’s religious day of Ashura. However, diplomats said there are informal discussions.
UPDATE, AUGUST 5:
A “senior EU official” says progress was made in renewed talks on Thursday over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The official said the progress in Vienna included guarantees that the US will not again withdraw from the deal. Iran has sought the assurances after the Trump Administration unilaterally walked out of the agreement in May 2018, imposing comprehensive sanctions on Tehran six months later.
Despite questions about how the US can deliver the assurance — given opposition by many Republicans in Congress to such a provision — the official said, “We have now quite substantial guarantees. It’s my understanding that Iran is happy and feels satisfied with what is in the text.”
The official also confirmed that Iran has dropped its demand for removal of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the US list of “foreign terrorist organizations”.
The issue will be handled “in the future” apart from the deal, the source said.
However, discussions are ongoing about “issues related to sanctions lifting and a couple of nuclear questions that did not exist in March as the Iranians advanced their program”. The official summarized:
We are a bit exhausted, I cannot imagine myself here in four weeks. This is not another round, we are here to finalize the text.
I think there is a real possibility, but it’s not going to be easy.
ORIGINAL ENTRY, AUGUST 4: Talks on renewal of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resume in Vienna on Thursday, but European and US officials are cautious about any advance.
The negotiations are seeking re-entry of the US to the agreement, which also includes the UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia; the lifting of American sanctions on Tehran; and Iran’s return to compliance with the terms, including limits on enrichment of uranium.
The discussions were close to completion in March; however, they stalled over Tehran’s insistence that the US remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps from the list of “foreign terrorist organizations”. The Trump Administration added the IRGC in April 2019, five months after withdrawing from the deal.
The renewal of the discussions was finally prompted last week by the tabling of a draft text by the European Union’s foreign policy head Josep Borrell.
“I Doubt Iran Will Seize This Opportunity”
European and US officials emphasized on Wednesday that Borrell’s draft is largely a reiteration of the position from March, in the hope that Iran will no longer set the condition over the IRGC.
There have been signals from the Iranians that they will separate the nuclear discussions from the issue of the Guards; however, European and US officials do not expect completion of the agreement on March’s terms in the near future.
A diplomat from one of the European countries in the agreement said:
My expectations are very low. I doubt Iran will seize this opportunity; it risks being more about trying to play things out and blurring responsibilities.
But situation is very clear: there is a text on table which Borrell described as best possible. There may be some room for clarifications and minor points mainly between US and Iran. This is why E3 [UK, France, and Germany] negotiators are not going.
The diplomat emphasized, “Iran must drop demands both extraneous to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and unrealistic,” specifically mentioning Tehran’s demand that the International Atomic Energy Agency halt its investigation of nuclear material at three undisclosed sites.
Censured by the IAEA Board of Governors, Iran has sharply curbed inspections and monitors, removing cameras from nuclear facilities and withholding surveillance videos.
Iran signalled on Wednesday that it will not make any compromises in Vienna. Its lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani, tweeted:
Heading to Vienna to advance the negotiations. The Onus is on those who breached the deal & have failed to distance from ominous legacy. The US must seize the opportunity offered by the JCPOA partners’ generosity; ball is in their court to show maturity & act responsibly.
— علی باقریکنی (@Bagheri_Kani) August 3, 2022