17 months after the United States and Iran began negotiating a possible return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal abandoned by President Donald Trump, the European Union has presented a “final” proposal to the two sides. considered before the negotiations collapsed. Western officials said.
Negotiations have gone through several pauses, crises and threatened conclusions, and it is far from certain that the latest proposal represents a final chapter. However, US and EU officials say their patience has become thin paper, as Iran steadily expands its nuclear program.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, said on Monday on Twitter: “What was negotiable was negotiated, and now it is included in the final text.
American officials have long warned that time is running out for a deal. A US State Department spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive negotiations, said the US was “ready to conclude a deal quickly” and that the EU proposal was “the only basis that has can happen”.
American officials suspect that Iran is ready to return to its program in exchange for relief from sanctions that have crippled its economy. But some analysts say the parties have inched closer than expected.
In a remarkable change, Iran has retreated from two main needs. One is insistence that the United States remove Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from its official list of foreign terrorist organizations, according to people briefed on the talks and two Iranians. familiar with the negotiations.
That request became one of the final hurdles to restoring the deal after President Biden refused to dismiss Trump’s 2019 National Guard corps counterterrorism designation.
What remained was the insistence that the Biden administration ensure that a future president would not withdraw from the deal even if Iran upheld its commitments, as Mr. Trump did in 2018. The Iranians accepted acknowledged that such a promise was unenforceable, according to the two Iranians.
“We were closer than we were at the time the deal was made last May, before the deal was done,” said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear policy expert who has consulted closely with the Obama administration. Negotiations were suspended because of the Iranian election. agree. “Bottom line: It can happen.”
Such a breakthrough would give Mr Biden a foreign policy achievement as he heads into the fall midterm elections, although some European officials say the US president may warn him against it. Beware of political criticism of extending an Obama-era deal that Republicans have largely rejected and which even some key Democrats oppose in its original form.
Understanding the Iran Nuclear Deal
Another factor is Iran’s new request that the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, drop a three-year investigation into unexplained man-made uranium at various sites. Iran’s various research sites, some of which Tehran refuses to allow IAEA inspectors to visit. Iran vehemently denies that it has a military intention to enrich uranium.
“This is their style: come to an agreement but at the time of the deal they say, ‘Just one more thing,'” Mr Cirincione said.
The agency identified traces of uranium particles based on information revealed in 2018, when Israeli agents stole thousands of documents and CDs about Iran’s nuclear program from a warehouse in Tehran.
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The stolen documents indicate that Iran had a military nuclear program until at least 2003, when the United States believed the program was over. Israel still doesn’t believe it’s closed.
Iran omitted the investigative key to ratifying the nuclear deal, even though the IAEA is not a signatory and is not involved in the negotiations.
The agency’s secretary general, Rafael M. Grossi, also said that it would be difficult for the agency to fully restore confidence in assessing where Iran is enriching because it has banned the agency from fully replacing it. enough memory cards and cameras for months. , as part of its own efforts to pressure negotiators.
“Just like in 2015, it is difficult to erase Iran’s past from its future,” said Ellie Geranmayeh of the European Council on Foreign Relations, which monitors the negotiations.
She added: “Iran wants to close the IAEA investigations as part of the revival of the JCPOA. “The West is not willing to give up the investigation.”
Ali Vaez, Iran director of the International Crisis Group, said that “what Iran is doing wrong is not being able to ignore the UN inspectors doing their job”.
“What it needs to do is clean it once and for all,” Mr. Vaez said. “The parties have resolved some issues, which is a positive development. But the fact that there is only a single disagreement left does not guarantee success.”
Even if finally signed, the new agreement will take months to come into effect. Critics note that even if Iran agrees to the enrichment limits in the original deal, the country has enough knowledge to build nuclear weapons if it chooses to do so, leaving the country This becomes a “threshold state”.
Iran also does not accept that the current 35-page proposed deal is a bid closure. Nour News, a news media outlet of the Supreme National Security Council, said on Tuesday that “of course the Islamic Republic of Iran does not accept the current text as the final text.”
After Mr. Biden refused in the spring to lift the US designation of the guard corps, Iran installed new advanced centrifuges in places deep underground and enriched uranium up to 60%, close to weapon grade and not needed for any civilian purposes.
In Iran, many analysts doubt that a deal is within reach. Iran’s conservative government faces internal divisions and hardline factions that distrust the West. Significant concessions also risk political backlash. Some conservative lawmakers have said any deal that would expose the Guards as a terrorist group is unacceptable.
But if Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejects the current Western offer, Iran probably won’t give up the negotiations. Iran sees itself as leverage over a West eager for a deal to bring more Iranian oil into a global economy strained by high energy prices, analysts say. But Ayatollah Khamenei also wants the tightening of sanctions to be lifted.
Mr. Vaez said that if the attempt to reach a deal fails, the West will have to start considering more restrictive alternatives.
“They are then likely to explore alternatives, as an interim deal, amid a race for increased sanctions versus centrifuges,” Mr. Vaez said.