Iran Nuclear Talks Resume as Powers Inch Toward Deal Revival
(Bloomberg) -- Diplomats convened a fourth round of negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program Friday in Vienna, with the Islamic Republic and the U.S. both signaling that a deal to revive a landmark 2015 agreement is within reach.
Reactivating the accord between world powers and Iran would rein in the Persian Gulf country’s rapidly expanding nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, substantially lowering tensions across the Middle East. Iran’s currency has strengthened on the back of rising expectations that the country could soon be able to resume international trade, including the export of oil.
The last three rounds have helped to crystallize the choices that need to be made by Iran and the U.S. in order to come back into a compliance-for-compliance return, a senior State Department official said late Thursday.
The deal could be revived in the next few weeks if Iran agrees to reign in atomic activities that have begun “galloping forward,” said the official, who asked not to be identified in exchange for discussing the negotiations.
The talks aim to choreograph a reversal of the unilateral decision by then-President Donald Trump to exit the deal with the rollback of Iran’s nuclear program to limits set by that pact.
That’s a complex task. Trump imposed penalties on the Iranian economy, including its critical oil sales, but also on government and military officials in what was seen as an attempt to make it harder for a future administration to dismantle the sanctions regime.
Iran’s top negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, met with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi ahead of the talks. The May 22 expiration of a provisional atomic monitoring arrangement between Iran and the IAEA has infused negotiations with a sense of urgency.
“We’re hopeful that we can wrap up our work in the shortest time possible,” Araghchi said Friday in broacast remarks on Iranian state TV. “We can’t predict with regards to timing, but we’re hoping to do it quickly.”
A decision to rejoin the deal would arguably be President Joe Biden’s most consequential foreign policy move a little more than 100 days into office. The agreement with Iran has riven the U.S. from some Middle East allies and deeply divided domestic politics.
After entering the 2015 deal, which includes China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K., then-President Barack Obama said the alternative might have been a military conflict with major disruptions to the global economy.
The warning still hangs over negotiators as they try to defuse tensions that have threatened to tip the region into war and led to attacks on shipping in waters critical for oil shipments since Trump scuttled the accord. Iran responded by ramping up its uranium enrichment, reaching levels near what’s needed for a nuclear weapon.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.