Takeaway: what to expect in the next round of Iran nuclear talks
The fate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or Iranian nuclear deal) hangs in the balance as negotiators prepare for another round of talks in Vienna on Thursday.
How we got here:
-The United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, European Union, Russia, China and Iran accepted the JCPOA in July 2015. United Nations Security Council 2231 (2015 ) approved the nuclear deal (read the resolution and the nuclear deal here). The heart of the deal is the easing of economic sanctions for Iran in exchange for Iran complying with the constraints of its nuclear program, enforced by the International Atomic Energy Agency, to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.
-The American President Donald trump withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018 and reimposed and added new sanctions against Iran, which affected Iran’s ability to export oil and engage in international trade and finance, harming to the Iranian economy. Iran has responded by ramping up its production of highly enriched uranium (HEU), needed to make a nuclear weapon, and reducing IAEA compliance.
– The American President Joe biden took office in January 2021, ready to negotiate the return of the United States to the JCPOA, should Iran also return to compliance. Six rounds of talks took place between April and June 2021. Talks halted after the election of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, who took office on August 3, 2021.
– The IAEA said in September 2021 that Iran’s restrictions on access to its facilities seriously undermined the agency’s oversight. In August, the IAEA noted that Iran was enriching 60 percent uranium, well above the JCPOA’s 3.67 percent cap. 90% pure HEU is required for nuclear weapons.
Where we are:
The seventh round of talks took place from November 29 to December 31. 3. Talks resume on December 9 amid recriminations between the West and Iran over the other’s intentions.
– A senior US State Department official on December 4 criticized Iran for “continuing to accelerate its nuclear program in a particularly provocative manner”, while not offering any “serious proposal” to move the talks forward. Read the official’s brief here.
-Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian said it is the sole responsibility of the United States to lift all sanctions, as it was the United States that abandoned the deal in 2018, so there is no need to even speak. He wrote on December 8 that the lifting of sanctions, improving trade relations and lasting economic cooperation are the main objectives of the negotiations.
– The IAEA reported on December 1 that Iran was enriching uranium with more advanced centrifuges at Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility, in violation of the JCPOA.
What the experts say:
-Opening offer or red line? : “I am inclined to think this is more of an opening offer,” Iran said Trita Parsi, Executive Vice President of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. But Parsi notes that the Iranian delegation in Vienna has less experience than the country’s previous negotiators, “which means that while they are speeding things up to negotiate, they may not know how to recalibrate that so that the ramp-up doesn’t. not stop. until it becomes destructive.
-Hardball continues? Iran is ready to play harder longer to see how urgent the demand for a deal is, said Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “If there is a change, it will not be a change until the very end, where the slightest modification will be forced to be interpreted by a West reluctant to pressure as Iran retreating from its red lines. “Taleblu said. “There will be a kind of over-inference of Iranian intentions to negotiate. “
– Time vs diplomacy: At the moment, there is a “diplomatic stalemate where neither side can afford to be flexible lest it be interpreted by the other side as a sign of weakness,” said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran project of the International Crisis Group. If negotiators fail to make progress in the Austrian capital this week, the United States risks stepping up sanctions and putting pressure on the IAEA, he said. “Another centrifuge sanction race is not just a losing one for both sides; but it’s also riskier than ever given Iran’s rapid nuclear progress, ”Vaez said. “The point is, the nuclear clock is running faster than the diplomatic clock.”
What we are looking at:
-Despite the grim evaluations of the seventh round and the low expectations of an agreement, the expert / technical committees of the JCPOA parties continued to discuss and exchange documents on the choreography and details of the lifting of the sanctions in return. Iran’s respect for the IAEA. Amwaj has the scoop here.
– As we wrote here last week, Amir-Abdollahian may be looking for a sign the United States has so far been reluctant to give. The Foreign Minister said last week that “there must be a sign that they are determined and serious and that they must make a gesture to show their goodwill; for example, by releasing $ 10 billion from Iran’s frozen assets. “
-Israel Minister of Defense Benny Gantz is in Washington this week as part of a diplomatic blitz against Jerusalem, which opposes the JCPOA, to push for even more sanctions and the need for credible military deterrence in relations with Iran.
From our regional correspondents
1. Raisi’s economic roadmap ultimately depends on sanctions relief
Bijan Khajehpour breaks down the content of the economic plan unveiled by the Iranian finance minister Ehsan Khandoozi. Government priorities include strengthening the national currency, containing fluctuations in exchange rates, and eliminating speculative currency trading. But as Khajehpour writes, “the reality on the ground will be more relevant than any plan,” and a lot will depend on whether sanctions relief is secured in the Vienna talks.
2. Should the Biden administration support Saudi defense reform?
The US Senate on Tuesday rejected a bipartisan resolution that would have halted the export of some $ 650 million in air-to-air missiles and related equipment to Saudi Arabia, which the Biden administration said was necessary to defend itself against them. attacks by the Houthis.
Although Saudi Arabia is calling for a resupply of its missile defenses, as the Wall Street Journal reports here, progressive lawmakers, anti-war and human rights groups, and some Republicans have criticized the sale, arguing that the weapons would prolong the civil war in Yemen.
In an editorial for Al-Monitor, Amal Altwaijri makes a different case: that the United States should not only keep arms sales to Riyadh, but that Washington support a defense reform initiative already underway in the Gulf country.
3. Sudan and Ethiopia collide over the disputed border.
The new Sudanese Prime Minister, Abdallah Hamdok, suspended all government appointments and reconsidered those made by Sudan’s highest general who became coup leader Abdel Fattah al Burhan. Baher al Kady a the reaction of Egypt, whose own democratic experience was upset by a military coup.
Elsewhere in Sudan, Mohamed Said has this report on the deadly clashes between Sudanese and Ethiopian forces in the long-contested agricultural region of al-Fashaqa. The border dispute also adds to tensions over Addis Ababa’s filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam, which Khartoum says will disrupt its water flows.
4. Israeli settlements risk escalation in Hebron
Tensions are high in Hebron, the West Bank city long considered a microcosm of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. At the end of last month, the Israeli President Isaac herzog sparked controversy when he lit a Hanukkah menorah in the city’s revered Ibrahimi Mosque, known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Ahmad Melhem reports that Hamas and other Palestinian factions are calling for unrest in response to Herzog’s lighting of the candles, which has also been condemned by several left-wing Israeli groups.
5. Egyptian fertility offerings unearthed in new discovery
Archaeologists digging in Luxor have unearthed hundreds of ancient offerings to an Egyptian fertility goddess. Among them were figurines of naked women with long braids and amulets depicting a woman with cow ears. But as Racha Mahmoud reports, who exactly is buried in the grave remains a mystery.
One Cool Thing: Robots Take Your Order In Mosul
A new restaurant in the Iraqi city of Mosul serves Western dishes with the help of a robotic waiter, in this Salah Hassan Baban says it means “sending a clear message to the world that the city has overcome war and destruction” after several years under the control of the Islamic State. The robot, which was programmed by engineers at the University of Mosul, functions as a uniformed electronic waiter that responds to special electronic menus and carries a tray to deliver orders. Take a look at the robot server here.