Iran has agreed to return to nuclear talks, but no deal expected soon

High-level representatives from Russia, China, Germany, England, France and Iran attended the joint commission.

Askin Kiyagan | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Iran’s chief negotiator said on Wednesday Iran would resume talks with six world powers before the end of November, seeking to revive a 2015 nuclear deal that lifted sanctions on the Islamic Republic in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

“We had a very serious and constructive dialogue with @enriquemora_on the essential elements for a successful negotiation. We agree to start negotiations before the end of November,” Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani wrote on Twitter after his meetings with EU officials in Brussels.

But experts caution that there is still a long way to go, if a deal is still possible at all.

The announcement came amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West as Tehran ramped up its nuclear activities in violation of the parameters of the deal. The Iranian government insists these developments are for peaceful purposes, but IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said in late October that Iran “within a few months” had enough material for a nuclear bomb.

Talks that had begun under the Joe Biden administration have stalled in the wake of the June elections for hardline and anti-Western cleric Ibrahim Raisi, which some see as a delaying tactic aimed at demonstrating a more assertive position.

“I don’t expect an agreement any time soon, because Iran’s delay tactics and messages from Tehran and the new administration clearly indicate that they intend to take a tougher stance and a tougher negotiating stance,” said Sanam Vakil, the party’s deputy head. The Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House.

Wakil noted that Kani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, also refused to meet with the E3 group – the foreign ministers of Germany, France and the UK – in a coordinated manner, “noting that he is trying to sow divisions along with the stalling tactics we’ve seen over the past few months.”

She added, “I expect the negotiations to take several months and we must be ready because those negotiations may not see a final resumption of the deal.”

The Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, put it starkly: it now believes that “a revival of the Iran nuclear deal is unlikely next year, as Iran’s rapid nuclear buildup and extremist demands will likely render the 2015 agreement irrelevant,” its analysts wrote. In a note on Wednesday. Adding that they estimated the probability of a deal in 2022 at 30%.

Previously, she saw a deal next year as more feasible given Iran’s crippled economy and its need for sanctions to be lifted. Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the Obama-era agreement in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran, sending the country soaring inflation and plunging its currency.

But Eurasia analysts wrote that “Iran’s continued intransigence and acceleration of its nuclear program will make it difficult for even the most forward-leaning negotiators to revive the agreement next year.”

The State Department said earlier this month that it wanted to resume negotiations “as soon as possible,” adding that the White House “has made it clear that if diplomacy fails we are ready to turn to other options,” though it did not specify what those options might be. Other options were.

The steady reduction in Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has included increased uranium stockpiling and enrichment levels well beyond standards set out in the JCPOA and to a level that many in the international community say is alarming.

Tehran insists its moves are within its sovereign rights and can be reversed if the United States lifts sanctions. Meanwhile, the Biden administration says it is ready to return to the negotiating table, but will only lift sanctions if Iran reverses its JCPOA violations first.

The repercussions of the deal’s long delay extend beyond Iran. As Iran reduces the “breakout time” to the bomb-building capacity to less than the current estimated three months, Israel will likely launch sabotage attacks, and the United States and its allies will have to consider more sanctions or other deterrent measures, pushing both countries forward. . towards confrontation.


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