For those who may have forgotten, during the 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden repeatedly blasted Donald Trump for pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal negotiations after it became obvious that Iran wasn’t dealing in good faith. He promised to restart the talks if elected and since taking office there have been “unofficial” talks taking place between third parties. The White House rarely says anything about what’s been going on in those meetings, but none of the countries involved have reported much in the way of progress. Today there will be several negotiators meeting with Iranian delegates in Vienna for what’s being described as “an effort to salvage the deal.” From the sound of things, however, nobody appears very optimistic and the U.S. envoy is saying that we won’t allow Iran to use further delays as a way of generating more leverage because of it. Meanwhile, the Russian envoy declared that “the talks can’t last forever,” suggesting that they may be about ready to give up. (Reuters)
World powers and Iran will gather in Vienna on Monday to try to salvage their 2015 nuclear deal, but with Tehran sticking to its tough stance and Western powers increasingly frustrated, hopes of a breakthrough appear slim.
Diplomats say time is running low to resurrect the pact, which then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, angering Iran and dismaying the other powers involved – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June. The new round begins after a hiatus triggered by the election of a new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric.
The Iranians haven’t budged an inch in their demands according to some of the people involved in the secret talks. They continue to insist that all U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed since 2017 be dropped, and that’s not even an offer in exchange for backing down on their nuclear program. That’s just what they want in return for agreeing to start talking about the nuclear program. In other words, it’s not a realistic offer of any sort.
Meanwhile, Iran has continued to thumb its nose at the IAEA inspectors and advance their weapons-grade fuel enrichment program. The available grounds for negotiations are, if anything, even less fertile since Ebrahim Raisi came to power. He’s more of a hardliner than his predecessors and does less to even bother trying to disguise his country’s ambitions.
In what seemed to be a blatant effort to pour more salt in the wound, barely one day before the new rounds of talks were to begin, Iranian Brig.-Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, a designated spokesman for the regime, declared that none of these talks would change Iran’s position regarding Israel. He reaffirmed his country’s ambition to “annihilate” Israel and destroy Zionism globally. (Jerusalem Post)
The spokesman for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s armed forces, Brig.-Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, on Saturday urged the total elimination of the Jewish state during an interview with an Iranian regime-controlled media outlet.
“We will not back off from the annihilation of Israel, even one millimeter. We want to destroy Zionism in the world,” Shekarchi told the Iranian Students News Agency.
From the perspective of the United States, there are two points about these developments that I wanted to make. First of all, is anyone really surprised? Is there any remaining confusion as to why Donald Trump bailed out on the talks? We do not have a reliable negotiating partner on the other side of the table. Iran is sometimes willing to at least “talk,” but their actions do not match their words. And there are too many countries willing to covertly undermine the sanctions on Iran so they feel empowered to stick to their original path. (We’re looking at you, Russia and China.)
The other unavoidable point is that Iran might at least be willing to entertain some potentially productive negotiations if they were concerned about the consequences they might face otherwise. But as we’ve seen in too many other situations globally, including the current mess we’re dealing with regarding China, Joe Biden has demonstrated that any threats he might make aren’t going to be taken seriously. Nobody is nearly as afraid of crossing us while it’s his hand on the trigger. Iran no doubt feels that they can basically continue on their nuclear weapons work and tell us to go pound sand because we won’t do anything about it. This isn’t a good look for us no matter how you slice it.