Negotiations aimed at restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal will resume in Vienna today, but they are expected to resume under a cloud of pessimism regarding the prospects for their success.
Tehran is doing its best to deny this fact, and the lead Iranian negotiator has made a number of statements intimating that Western parties to those talks are on the verge of giving in to the regime’s demands for immediate, unconditional, and comprehensive relief from the US sanctions. However, the US has shown no sign of willingness to provide such relief and has in fact warned about other options that are on the table if Iran’s ongoing delays lead to the failure of diplomacy.
The French Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, signaled that it views that outcome as increasingly likely. In media interviews, officials stated that they are worried Iran is “playing for time” and that the regime’s position in the negotiations is likely to grow even more untenable the longer the negotiations carry on.
Ali Bagheri-Kani, the lead Iranian negotiator, described the Iranian regime’s current proposals as “useful and constructive” in his remarks following the conclusion of last week’s talks, the first to take place in Vienna since a sixth round of negotiations concluded in June. But Western negotiators shot down that description by noting that Iran was not only making excessive demands for sanctions relief, but has also reneged on a number of compromises that were reportedly achieved during the six previous sessions.
German officials urged the Iranian regime to return to the talks this week with more realistic proposals, while the US accused it of attempting to “slow-walk” the negotiating process at the same time it is accelerating its nuclear activities.
Since 2018, the Iranian regime has resumed enriching uranium to the level of 20 percent fissile purity, and has pushed a small amount of that material to 60 percent, putting it even closer to weapons grade. In its most recent quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Organization estimated that Iran’s stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium was more than 80 kg., but the head of Iran’s nuclear authority later boasted that the real figure was at least 50 percent higher.
The Iranian regime has also been producing uranium metal, a substance with essentially no practical application other than as part of the core of a nuclear weapon. Iranian facilities have set up cascades of advanced centrifuges for further enrichment, whereas the JCPOA constrained them to first-generation machines, not running in sequence. Meanwhile, Tehran’s production of potentially nuclear-capable ballistic missiles has continued unabated since before the agreement began falling apart, as such activity had not been covered by its initial terms.
Many critics of the agreement viewed that omission as a sign of excessive conciliation on the part of Western negotiators – something that the Iranian regime is arguably striving to take advantage of with its latest demands for unearned concessions. One official with the US State Department hinted at that situation in remarks to the media, noting that Iran is trying to “pocket all of the compromises that others – the US in particular – has made and then ask for more.”
It is perhaps ironic, then, that some assessments of US strategy suggest the US government is counting on Russia and China – the two negotiating parties most favorable to Iran – as potential sources of pressure that might convince the regime to draw back from its hardline position. In the wake of last week’s talks, some US officials alleged that Russian and Chinese negotiators had been “taken aback” by the uncompromising tone of the Iranian regime’s proposals.
The effects of that strategy would go well beyond bolstering the prospects for a resolution at the Vienna talks. Iran’s hardline negotiating position has been backed up by the regime’s president, Ebrahim Raisi who has been selected by the supreme leader to follow this path.
“Cheating and undermining the results of the previous negotiations are testaments to this fact. Khamenei has tied his destiny to the nuclear program. Selection of Ebrahim Raisi as President was a hostile and repressive act aiming to confront popular uprisings on the one hand, and openly pursuing nuclear and missile programs, as well as regional warmongering and international adventurism on the other hand,” Mr. Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NCRI said on December 4, 2021, adding:
“The mullahs’ regime has exploited the appeasement policy to force the Vienna talks into a defective cycle of deception. Only firmness could break this cycle. The six UN Security Council resolutions must be reactivated. The Iranian regime’s nuclear sites should be dismantled, and the regime should halt enriching uranium. The inspection, anywhere and anytime, should be implemented.”
6 UNSC resolutions must be reactivated, #Iran’s atomic sites shut down, uranium enrichment stopped completely, & anytime/anywhere inspections imposed.
Mullahs’ overthrow & a popular/democratic government is the solution to relieve the world of regime’s nuclear nightmare.#JCPOA
— Mohammad Mohaddessin (@Mohaddessin) December 4, 2021