Stock Groups

Iran nuclear talks restart as critical time pressure and distrust builds


Ali Bagheri Kani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, arrives at Palais Coburg, where close-door talks on Iran’s nuclear issues take place in Vienna (Austria), February 8th, 2022.

Leonhard Foeger | Reuters

Vienna saw the restarting of negotiations to restore 2015 Iran’s nuclear deal after more than ten years. However, they were still in flux despite being weighed down with uncertainty and mutual distrust. 

The time is critical. Every week Iran’s nuclear capability grows, so a return on a deal is less possible.

Rob Malley, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran is currently in Vienna to facilitate indirect talks between European diplomats. Washington and Tehran don’t talk directly. The Biden administration believes a deal is in sight – but if nothing is reached within a few weeks, it could be too late.

Jen Psaki spoke on Wednesday, stating that the White House has reached an urgent stage in its talks with Iran.

A deal is on the horizon that addresses all of our core concerns. “But if we don’t reach an agreement in the next weeks, Iran will continue to develop nuclear weapons that would make it difficult for us to go back to the JCPOA,” she stated, referring specifically to the formal title of the agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. 

In 2018, the administration of former President Donald Trump unilaterally ditched the deal – which had lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program. Iran has seen significant improvements in its nuclear activity since then. increasing uranium enrichment and stockpiles far beyond the parametersThe 2015 agreement. 

It has also reduced its “breakout period,” which is the time required to make a nuclear bomb. Iran’s leaders claim that these moves were made in response Trump’s U.S. sanctions which have severely crippled the country’s economy. 

Iran needed economic relief so the Biden administration revived six rounds indirect talks between April and June 2021. The talks were put on hold in November after the election of Ibrahim Raisi, an anti-Western extremist, to the Iranian presidency. The talks have stalled because of disagreements about previous negotiations and there has not been any progress on resolving the remaining issues.

These points of contention have been very hard to overcome. The U.S. is demanding a reversal of Iran’s nuclear advancements, and Iran wants sanctions lifted – but both sides want the other to make the first move. Trust is virtually nonexistent, given the fact that the Biden administration cannot guarantee an ironclad new agreement, and considering the speed at which the Trump administration tore down the previous one.

Ryan Bohl of Rane Risk Intelligence, an analyst on Middle East/Africa at Rane Risk Intelligence said that the biggest problem currently facing Iran is a lack trust. The Biden administration may have to offer greater concessions Iran to get a deal.

Bohl stated to CNBC that the U.S. has accepted that it must go further to build trust with Iran and to also accept the political realities that came about through President Raisi’s election. Trump’s withdrawing from the agreement proved that hardliners are right. This vindication means that it’s more difficult for the U.S. convince this same group, which is now at power, that a nuclear agreement is worth it.”

Ballistic missiles now available

Iran, however, has continued to assert its dominance and send the message it is a power that must be taken seriously. The Iranian top security officials Ali Shamkhani and the U.S. have not been able to agree on how the U.S. should proceed with the new missile.

Bohl stated that the ballistic missile reveal I view as a routine demonstration of military technology, which fits into their larger strategy to show how trouble they can create if military escalates begin. 

In this photograph taken February 9, 2022, Major General Mohammad Bagheri of Iran’s Armed Forces and Commander of IRGC Aerospace Force Amir Ali Hajizadeh pose during the unmasking of “Kheibarshekan”, a missile that was launched from an unknown location in Iran.

via Reuters| WANA | via Reuters

Also, the talks are coming after weeks of missile strikes and drone attacks against United Arab Emirates from Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Iran supports them. 

According to Eurasia Group, the Biden Administration “has basically laid its cards on it,” an analyst note by Wednesday’s Eurasia Group said. 

“Washington is willing to accept a deal with substantially weaker nuclear constraints on Iran compared with the 2015 agreement, in terms of breakout time, and to offer Iran sanctions relief or assurances beyond the scope of JCPOA … Washington’s argument is essentially that some limits are better than none,” it said.

Tehran’s stockpiles of uranium have been increased to near-weapons quality, and the advanced centrifuges are indicating that it has reached a point at which there will be no return. That could make JCPOA’s anti-proliferation benefits in the future unsustainable.  

Biden was elected in January 2009. “Tehran gained significant leverage through irreversible nuclear knowledge, without having to pay any price,” Behnam Behnam Ben Taleblu said. He is a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. 

Washington is not interested in an escalation of relations with Iran. Biden, however, is eager to reverse Trump’s major foreign policy legacy by getting back the deal. Despite the fact that there is still no agreement, it could cause Washington to reverse its course and adopt more aggressive actions, although they have not yet specified exactly what these measures might be.

Ben Taleblu stated, “Put differently.” “Every impression from Vienna so far is that Iran still remains in the driver’s seat.”