Tehran, Iran – Iran and the United States have moved closer to a deal to restore the 2015 nuclear deal after 16 months of intense negotiations, but things may depend on what happens in the coming days.
All eyes are now on Washington as it prepares to respond to Iran’s written comments on a “final” text. proposed by the European Union at the end of negotiations in Vienna earlier this month.
The bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, on Monday said Iran’s response was “reasonable”, officially confirming the views of several unnamed European diplomats to the media. West since last week.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters late on Monday that a response would be made as soon as internal consultations are complete, adding that “we will not lose one day longer than necessary.”
This came shortly after Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani accused the US of “delaying” in its response.
“The [US] Borrell said, in comments that could put pressure on Washington, added that a meeting in Vienna to sign the deal could take place soon.
Iran seems to have give up a need remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the US “terrorist” list, a problem considered a person who did not start by the administration of US President Joe Biden after months of media scrutiny and local outcry.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), officially known as the agreement, was signed in 2015 to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of multilateral sanctions.
In 2018, the US unilaterally abandoned the agreement, imposing harsh sanctions that are in force to this day.
Al Jazeera spoke with several experts about the current state of the nuclear deal negotiations and the pitfalls they may still face.
‘No new confrontation’
Diako Hosseini, a foreign policy analyst based in Tehran, believes the finish line could be in sight.
He told Al Jazeera: “While there can be no absolute guarantee of success until the very end, we are probably only a few weeks away from success.
Hosseini said that while the EU and Russia’s reasons differ, in supporting the nuclear deal, both pursue a similar goal in that “they do not welcome a new front in confrontations”.
“Reviving the JCPOA is what they need to reduce international tensions and refrain from difficult choices.”
Based on Unconfirmed details of a potential deal Leaked in recent days, Tehran has called for two and a half years of guarantees from US sanctions, and support from other parties if Washington unilaterally abandons the accord again.
Hosseini points out that there can be no absolute guarantees because governments commit to such agreements only as long as the benefits outweigh the losses, and this is something that leaders in Tehran are aware of.
“There are no guarantees that can prevent the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, but Iran hopes to influence the costs of the US and therefore its calculation to exit the agreement through obtaining the necessary guarantees,” he said. guaranteed stronger”.
‘Difficult balancing act’
“The ball is in Biden’s court,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice president at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
“If this drags on for too long, it will get too close to the midterm elections, which will deeply upset Biden’s allies in Congress,” Parsi told Al Jazeera.
“The United States wants to give a response that will not be a complete acceptance of what the Iranians have proposed but will also not allow the Iranians to change it further. This is a tough balancing act.”
According to Parsi, some of the changes Iran proposes in the text are seen as beneficial to Europe as a whole, as they protect European companies that invest or do business with Iran.
“Ultimately, providing guarantees against a second American exit from the agreement will strengthen the agreement,” he said.
Parsi argues that such changes would have been unnecessary had the US not abandoned the deal in the first place, saying that “it shows the price the US has to pay” for exiting the JCPOA.
But the changes have also angered opponents of the deal at home and abroad, who say what’s going on contradicts the “longer, stronger and broader” deal Biden promised to make. head.
Several US senators have attacked the content of the talks in recent days, prompting the National Security Council to respond by denying that the US is giving Iran “concessions”. great.
Meanwhile, Israel remains the biggest opponent of the nuclear deal and a major reason the US has delayed its response has been attributed to consultations with Israeli officials.
Over the past week, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid warned both the White House and French President Emmanuel Macron about reinstating the JCPOA, saying refusing to walk away from the deal would be a sign of “weakness”.
Kelsey Davenport, director of non-proliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, believes that JCOPA remains the best option for both Tehran and Washington, but the negotiations cannot last forever.
She told Al Jazeera: “If the US shows flexibility in responding to requests related to Iran’s sanctions, then Tehran cannot pocket compromises and then demand more,” she told Al Jazeera. Jazeera and added that Tehran has used such a tactic in the past.
“If Iran wants a deal, Tehran must strongly signal to the Biden administration that these proposed amendments are the end of the line.”
Davenport pointed out that the longer the negotiations drag on, the smaller the chance for the JCPOA to be reinstated, the greater the risk that Iran’s nuclear advances cross U.S. red lines and the more likely the opposition. Domestically in both countries would erode the political will to reach an agreement. .
The two countries are also at odds over an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) probe into traces of unexplained uranium particles found at several Iranian sites.
Iran has requested the construction of the probe to get the deal going, but there are also reports that a clause could be added to the deal that stipulates the construction of a probe if Iran fully cooperates with the regulator. nuclear weapons.
In an interview with CNN on Monday, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi stressed that “releasing probes is not something the IAEA does or would do without proper procedures.”
Davenport also emphasized that Iran is the only country that can terminate the probe.
“Nothing without reliable cooperation from Iran will close the case,” she said.
“Any perception that the IAEA is being pressured to close its investigation early will have serious consequences for the agency’s integrity and broader efforts to prevent non-disclosure.”