Does Washington truly want the JCPOA revival?

Biden’s choice

April 25, 2022 - 21:19

TEHRAN — According to a report published by Barak Ravid, an Israeli author for the Axios website, Washington and Tel-Aviv are set to hold another round of strategic talks focusing on Iran’s nuclear activities. Why does this matter?

From the very beginning of his campaigning, Joe Biden pledged to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

However, he delayed the talks for two months with the excuse of deciding on his political delegation. Later, he assigned Antony Blinken to “revive” the deal. In this regard, Blinken put Robert Malley, former head of the Crisis Group, a think tank that claims to be “an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict,” according to its website.

The appointment of Malley as the chief negotiator of the United States raised skepticism over the very foundation of the JCPOA revival. The logic behind his appointment was that one of the masterminds behind the JCPOA text would be a perfect choice for the revival of the said text. Yet, over the course of eight intensive rounds of negotiations, Malley turned into an entirely different person. 

Being one of the minds behind the JCPOA text, one would normally expect Malley to adhere and believe in what he has written, and what has become an internationally recognized agreement. However, this diplomat began his tactics step by step by throwing stones in the way of a fruitful negotiation. How? By making excessive, maximalist demands, some of which were entirely out of the JCPOA context.

Baffled by internal conflicts within the administration, Joe Biden’s cabinet has failed to determine a perfect strategy to resuscitate the nuclear deal. Case in point is the new round of talks between the U.S. and the Israeli regime which is set to begin in the current week. This was clear in the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman’s remarks to the Tehran Times on Monday.

“The Biden government has held talks with the regime, which has been trying to damage all diplomatic opportunities since day one, and this is not the first time that the Islamic Republic of Iran has witnessed such talks between the United States and the occupation regime in Jerusalem. We will continue our peaceful nuclear path regardless of any media hypes,” he told the Tehran Times correspondent during his weekly presser.

Let’s explore why these talks are multitudes of steps back from the previously claimed “constructive approach” of the U.S. in the Vienna talks. 

The meetings will take place in the midst of a major deadlock in indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran to resurrect the nuclear accord.

According to the Axios report, “The Biden administration has recently started discussing a scenario in which the nuclear deal isn’t revived. Israel is pressing the administration to cooperate on a ‘Plan B’ in case that happens.”

Biden and Bennett held a phone call on Sunday and discussed shared regional and global security challenges, including the threat posed by Iran, the White House reported.

Bennett and Biden mentioned Iran's demand that the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) be removed from the United States' list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), according to the Israeli Prime Minister's office.

“I am sure that President Biden, who is a true friend of Israel and cares about its security, will not allow the IRGC to be removed from the list of terrorist organizations,” Bennett said in a statement after the call.

“Israel has clarified its position on the issue: The IRGC is the largest terrorist organization in the world.”

While the Iranian officials repeatedly underline that removing the IRGC from the FTO list is a must, and an agreement cannot be reached in Vienna without removing the IRGC from the said list, Washington keeps moving in the wrong direction by including a terrorist regime in what is discussed in the negotiation rooms in Palais Coburg, Vienna. 

In an interview on March 28, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian stated that one of the outstanding issues in the Vienna nuclear talks is the unilateral sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States, specifically under Donald Trump's presidency after he left the nuclear deal.

According to Amir Abdollahian, the IRGC is “the most important security and defense” organization in Iran, and Iran has told the Americans, likely through the EU coordinator that serves as an intermediary, its concern with the IRGC-related sanctions. 

When the Biden administration knows that the IRGC sanctions are a red line for Tehran, conducting talks with Iran’s arch-enemy in the midst of a make-or-break negotiation could heavily jeopardize the fate of the negotiations as a whole. 

Iranian Foreign Ministry officials have time and again underscored that Tehran will not back down from its red lines. Though the de-listing of IRGC is one of the stalemates in the Vienna talks, it is not all. There are more stalemates that need to be addressed by the White House, and it is crucial not to undermine the remaining issues in Vienna to just one difference of opinion. 

In another part of his press briefing, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Khatibzadeh said that reducing the remaining issues in the Vienna talks to just one issue is the Israelis’ demand. 

“Reducing what is left between us and the United States to one issue is the demand of Washington and the Zionist regime. Our topics cannot be reduced or simplified,” the spokesman said.

He added that what is going on between Iran and the United States is a confrontation of two perspectives. 

“One ignores a view of international law and tries to impose its policy on all international issues, and the other one is the perspective of the Islamic Republic, which believes that the signed negotiations which have been sealed and set aside, should be respected,” Khatibzadeh elaborated.

He then stressed that U.S. elections and domestic politics could not determine the outcome of the Vienna talks. 

“The sanctions imposed by Trump must be lifted and Iran's economic benefits must be fully considered. But the Zionist regime is deliberately undermining the remaining points,” he noted. 

In times like this, the role of the media becomes even more vital. The Israelis' tactics should be known to the media.

Media’s role aside, the Vienna talks can be successful, if, and only if, Joe Biden makes an important decision and address Iran’s concerns in writing. Then, if Tehran receives the desired response from Washington, the Iranian delegation can return to Vienna to “sign” the deal.

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