Iran Wants U.S. to Guarantee It Won’t Again Leave Nuclear Accord
(Bloomberg) -- Iran is demanding the U.S. guarantee that it won’t again quit the 2015 nuclear deal as the two countries prepare to resume indirect negotiations over reviving the embattled accord, its deputy foreign minister said.
“This is one of the issues that wasn’t resolved in the last rounds,” said Ali Bagheri Kani, who will lead Iran’s negotiating team in discussions slated to recommence in Vienna on Nov. 29 after a four-month break. “In the new talks, that’s one of the main tasks,” he said in an interview in London on Thursday.
Although U.S. officials have said substantial progress was made in the first six rounds of negotiations on resurrecting the pact after President Joe Biden took office, the Iranian demand is a major logjam. While Iran wants the Biden administration to offer some form of guarantee that a future U.S. president won’t back out as Donald Trump did three years ago, U.S. officials say they can’t bind successor governments.
The nuclear accord all but collapsed after Trump withdrew and reimposed sanctions, including on Iran’s critical oil exports. Tehran retaliated by dramatically escalating its uranium work to near weapons-grade, and curtailing the access of international inspectors to key facilities and sensitive sites. The standoff fueled regional conflicts, while a series of attacks on vessels in Persian Gulf shipping lanes further heightened tensions.
Bagheri Kani said that European signatories to the deal, including the European Union, had a critical role to play once talks resume in the Austrian capital.
They could provide powerful tools to bolster a resurrected agreement, he said, especially employing so-called blocking statutes to protect European companies doing business with Tehran from any future American sanctions.
“The use of their capabilities and means, including blocking statutes,” could definitely help, he said, without giving further details on legislation that in the past has proven ineffective.
Iran has other major demands going into the talks, including the removal of all U.S. sanctions that prevent it normalizing economic relations with the rest of the world, and American compensation for damage caused by the penalties.
“We want all the sanctions that are contrary to the nuclear deal to be lifted, whether that’s from the Obama or Trump era,” Bagheri Kani said in the interview.
As the diplomats gather, Washington and its European allies will seek details of how Iran intends to roll back its uranium enrichment, which now vastly exceeds caps imposed by the 2015 deal.
Bagheri Kani was appointed after the election in Iran of hardline President Ebrahim Raisi in June. He has a much more hawkish and conservative view of Iran’s relations with the U.S. compared to his predecessors, who helped broker the original accord under moderate ex-President Hassan Rouhani.
Asked if the nuclear talks will pick up from where they were left off months ago, he said: “The important point is that we reach an agreement that leads to a practical result.” That might involve blending achievements from the previous rounds of talks and “part of it might be about matters outside of that,” he said.
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Iran also faces a possible effort by European countries and the U.S. to table a censure motion over its nuclear transparency at a forthcoming Board of Governors meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Nov. 22, days before the nuclear talks are slated to resume.
But Bagheri Kani said Iran had “good and constructive cooperation with the IAEA,” and he saw no reason for “any negative interaction with the agency on these issues.”
Iran has always maintained its atomic program is for peaceful, civilian use only. But the U.S. and its European allies have feared the country sought a nuclear weapon, and the 2015 deal was designed to make that more difficult.
China and Russia have frequently called on the U.S. to return to the agreement and lift sanctions, while European powers have voiced alarm at Iran’s nuclear advances and the potential for the deal to collapse entirely.
If the accord does finally disintegrate, it would mark a major failure in decades of post-Cold War efforts to manage nuclear activity around the world with the aim of preventing and reducing the proliferation of atomic weapons. Success in Vienna could calm regional disputes and see Iran rapidly raise its oil exports for a tightly-supplied market.
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