Tehran sends US signals on nuclear deal

Iran’s Foreign Ministry says it remains possible to reach agreement and resume implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Tehran sends US signals on nuclear deal

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani Chafee told a press conference that Tehran “is adhering to the process of diplomacy and negotiations and that there is still a possibility of reaching an agreement and resuming implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).” In doing so, he referred to a telephone conversation between the Iranian and Qatari foreign ministers, as well as bilateral, multilateral but indirect talks between Tehran and Washington through intermediaries such as Enrique Mora of the European Union and some senior representatives of other countries on the margins of the UN General Assembly. The issues under discussion are also known. The most basic of these is the removal of sanctions on Iran, but Tehran has specifically warned that “there should be no interpretations that could prevent the terms of the future deal from being fulfilled”.

True, these are just generalities, although Reuters earlier reported, citing sources in the US State Department, that “the parties were unable to reach an agreement because of Iran’s position insisting on stopping the IAEA investigation into the origin of uranium particles at undeclared nuclear facilities”.

It is also worth recalling that, according to the latest draft of the nuclear deal proposed by the EU, Tehran is obliged, if it signs the agreement, to begin curtailing its programme from day one and, within another 120 days of the start of the deal, to export 50 million barrels of oil “as part of the verification mechanism”. As for interpretation of the course of events in general, it is inevitable given the closed nature of the negotiation process, where the parties allow for their own interpretations of the positions taken in tactical interests. Russia, Britain, Germany, China, the US and France believe it is necessary to restore the JCPOA in its original form.

This is where the intrigue comes in. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian told Al-Monitor that the United States proposed direct talks without involving the other P5+1 members. However, he said Tehran was “in no hurry to agree to such a format” because “it would be a game changer”. This is an old scheme that deprives Tehran of opportunities for broad diplomatic maneuvering on the European track. Therefore, the 5 + 1 format (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – Russia, the PRC, the UK, France and the US, as well as Germany) remains in place. An open dialogue between Tehran and Washington is only possible if the Americans first lift the sanctions. But judging by Iran’s closed and open contacts through intermediaries with the U.S., a breakthrough is possible only if Washington abandons its methods of imposing power politics on Iran. But are the Americans ready for this?

At the same time, Iran also sees the weakness of Europe, which seems to be putting its foot down, but cannot dictate its wishes to Washington. Nevertheless, Tehran is not writing Brussels off completely, believing that the U.S. will listen to its opinion, although there is little chance of that now. So far, diplomacy on the nuclear agreement has been conducted in the old platform in Vienna at various levels, although other capitals have joined in from time to time. Moreover, Tehran relies on Moscow in its nuclear dialogues. Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ibrahim Raisi have repeatedly discussed the JCPOA both in person and by phone. Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov and Hossein Amir Abdollahian, as well as the heads of their delegations at the negotiations on the nuclear deal, Mikhail Ulyanov and Ali Bagheri Kani, have been in constant contact and exchanged views on the issue.

The initiative of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also remains on the table. However, the whole diplomatic marathon is taking place against the backdrop of difficult political processes taking place in Iran and the United States, where forces opposing the reinstatement of the JCPOA are manifesting themselves. Therefore, until the ideological view and diplomatic pressure practices are supplanted by rationalism, no change can be expected. Kanani’s “signal” to the Americans only demonstrates Tehran’s potential for resuming negotiations. Washington is so far silent. On the whole, only pessimistic intonations can be heard from there so far, but things may change in an instant. We will wait.

Stanislav Tarasov, REX News Agency