Vienna Talks: What to expect?

April 6, 2021 - 11:50

TEHRAN- Senior diplomats gather on Tuesday in Vienna to negotiate about reviving the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), which Donald Trump pulled out of in 2018. But, what should we expect from these talks?

It’s been almost three years since Trump, the 45th lame-duck American president withdrew from JCPOA. The European Union, however, did not flip the table and nominally stayed in. However, they did not keep up with their commitments. With Trump secretly making calls and sending letters to bring Iran around the same table, the Islamic Republic of Iran suspended implementation of some parts of the JCPOA in May 2019 and started enriching uranium beyond the agreed 3.67%. Since then, there have been many diplomatic conflicts. 

Before Joe Biden was elected as president of the United States, he had developed a foreign policy plan in which he had stated that he would revive the JCPOA; yet he would seek to negotiate with Iran over ballistic missiles, accusing Iran of destabilizing the region. Yet, they have softened quite a bit after the election. This is particularly important as neither Iran nor the U.S. are in the same position they were in 2019. Iran has reached a 25-year deal with China, trying to distance itself from Western countries, and the United States is “seemingly” trying a diplomatic approach with countries such as Yemen, Iran, etc.

The Biden administration clearly knows that the United States has shattered the trust of Iranian government, and the Iranian people when Donald Trump left the JCPOA in cold blood. The process of restoring this shattered trust is not easy at all, particularly when Iran has signed comprehensive strategic partnership with China.

 White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday that the United States sees indirect talks with Iran in Vienna as “potentially constructive” but is clear-eyed about the diplomacy and doesn’t currently expect direct talks to take place. Meanwhile, Biden’s special U.S. envoy for Iran Robert Malley stated in an interview with PBS NewsHour “ ...so we want to get Iran back into compliance. And the United States knows that, in order to get back into compliance, it's going to have to lift those sanctions that are inconsistent with the deal that was reached with Iran and the other countries involved in the nuclear deal.” 

Meanwhile, Seyed Abbas Araghchi, Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran, has ruled out the possibility of “shuttle diplomacy” between Iran and the United States in an interview with the national TV. 

“We will have no direct or indirect talks with the Americans in Vienna. We will negotiate within the Joint Commission with the P4+1 and will announce our demand and condition for returning to compliance with the JCPOA. We demand that the United States first fulfill all of its obligations and lift all the sanctions it has imposed, and then we will verify and return,” 

While Israel has expressed deep concerns over United States policy towards Iran, it seems that Saudi Arabia wants a seat in the Vienna talks as well. In an interview with CNN, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan called for participation in the Iran nuclear talks, calling it an opportunity for dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran and the possibility of developing relations between the two countries.

But, what should we expect from the Vienna talks? Obviously, no immediate agreements whatsoever. Both parties know that this is a tough field to play, thanks to Trump’s idiocy. The main question however is this: Will Iran allow shuttle diplomacy to happen? Will there be any talks, direct or indirect, between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States? The answer lies deeply in Tuesday’s events.

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