Iran Nuclear Deal: Negotiations Stalled In A Quagmire

Iran’s reluctance to conclude discussions regarding the nuclear agreement until the President’s inauguration means the economy will be continually affected by sanctions till all parties arrive at a meeting point.

The continuous attempt to revitalize the Iran nuclear deal is being presented with numerous obstacles. Regarding the negotiation between the US and Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said, “We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely,” Blinked said in Kuwait while addressing a news conference.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear pact in 2018, imposed sanctions on Iran, and Iran responded with more aggressive uranium enrichment. Recently both the US and Iran have seen a change in leadership as well as its approach to foreign policy.

Formerly known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement was reached between Iran and world powers called the P5+1 (U.S., U.K., France, China, Russia, and Germany) in 2015 that was intended to persuade Iran to regulate much of its nuclear program facilities. The deal was supposed to prevent Iran from producing nuclear materials of high uranium purity and open up their facilities for inspections to international organizations. In addition, the aim was to ensure that, should Iran attempt to pursue a nuclear warhead, it would take at least one year.

As a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran agreed not to pursue the development of nuclear weapons. The nuclear agreement was sought after by both parties as it presented mutual benefits. For the United States, it deterred Iran from pursuing nuclear warheads and hence reduced the likelihood of a clash with rival powers like Saudi Arabia and Israel. For Iran, signing the nuclear agreement came with the benefits of reduced sanctions and trade embargoes imposed on the country, which had a detrimental effect on the economy.

The agreement also limited the number and type of centrifuges operated in the facilities, the percent of uranium enrichment, and the size of the stockpile of enriched uranium. Uranium at a 90 percent enrichment level could be used for nuclear warheads and hence, were limited. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could also conduct routine inspections, granting it access to Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The sixth round of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington began on June 20 in Vienna. Almost simultaneously (two days before), Iran’s newly appointed President, Ebrahim Raisi won the presidential election and took office on August 5, succeeding President Hassan Rouhani; Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remains the supreme leader. 

The United States and other members have been eager to resume negotiations. Ayatollah Khamenei has said that Tehran would not accept the US’s “stubborn” demands. He has insisted that the US sanctions must be lifted, after which Tehran will scale back its nuclear steps.

Ayatollah Khamenei can be quoted saying, “The Americans acted completely cowardly and maliciously.”

“They once violated the nuclear deal at no cost by exiting it. Now they explicitly say that they cannot give guarantees that it would not happen again,” the Supreme leader said. Ayatollah Khamenei believes “Westerners” do not help the country and that they “are enemies.”

Whereas Biden administration’s attempt in seeking to broaden the pact to put more limits on Iran was not seen favorably by Tehran. Ayatollah Khamenei said, “By adding this sentence, they want to provide an excuse for their further interventions on the nuclear deal and (Iran’s) missile work and regional issues.”… “Then if we refuse to discuss those issues, Americans will accuse Iran of violating the nuclear deal, and they will say the agreement is over.”

Despite the accusation by Iran, the US administration, as communicated through the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, believes they have “clearly demonstrated [their] good faith and desire to return to mutual compliance with the nuclear agreement.”

A US State Department spokesperson said the Biden administration had been “sincere and steadfast in pursuing a meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance.” 

The US administration has shown a willingness to return to the table to continue negotiations; this is to prevent Iran from reaching a high level of uranium enrichment before a deal is made.

Germany has also communicated their growing concern surrounding Iran’s inaction regarding the nuclear deal. Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, was quoted by newsweekly saying, “I am seeing with growing unease that Iran is delaying the resumption of the Vienna nuclear talks on the one hand, and on the other hand it is simultaneously moving further and further away from core elements of the agreement.”

Negotiations occur on a two-way street, and Iran’s involvement in the agreement would be needed to arrive at a solution. Unfortunately, Iran’s reluctance to conclude discussions regarding the nuclear agreement until the President’s inauguration means the economy will be continually affected by sanctions till all parties arrive at a meeting point.

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