Resumption of Vienna talks awaits U.S. decision 

May 22, 2022 - 21:50

TEHRAN – After a three-day visit by the European Union’s coordinator for the talks in Vienna between Iran and major world powers, speculations resurfaced again that the revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear could happen soon.

But the current state of play between Iran and the U.S. suggests that the ball is in Washington’s court and that without a political decision from the White House the resuscitation of the nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), would be far from being in the air. 

Enrique Mora, the chief EU negotiator in the Vienna talks, paid a visit to Tehran on May 10 and stayed in the Iranian capital for about three days in a highly charged atmosphere marked by U.S. procrastination in terms of making the necessary political decisions required to push the stalled talks forward. 

The visit was carried out at the initiative of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell who described the effort as a “last bullet.” Borrell said he was dispatching Mora to Tehran for a “middle way” solution to the stalemated talks. He also outlined the broad contours of the aims of the visit. According to Borrell, Europe prepared a proposal under which the U.S. would approve removing the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) from its blacklist but retain its sanctions on the military organization. 

In Tehran, Mora met with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani. Very few details have been leaked to the press about what happened in Mora’s meetings with Iranian officials. But it seems that conveyed what Borrell openly said ahead of the visit. Hadi Afghahi, a former Iranian diplomat, told the Arabic-language Iran News Agency that Mora carried two messages: One is related to Europe’s desire to import energy from Iran in light of the war in Ukraine and the other includes ideas about the IRGC designation. According to Afghahi, Mora carried American proposals that included lifting the sanctions on some Iranian entities and companies, but keeping the IRGC and some of its figures on the U.S. blacklist. The American proposals also included a paragraph calling on Iran not to avenge the assassination of top IRGC general Qassem Soleimani, according to Afghahi.

If true, the U.S. proposals are no different from what American officials already said to the press. The U.S. inaction over the talks seems to have prompted Iran to take the initiative again. Ali Hashem, a UK-based journalist who is close to the Axis of Resistance, said in a report for Al-Monitor that Iran presented Mora with new ideas that are “more than suggestions” to break the deadlock of the talks. 

“Al-Monitor learned from multiple sources in Tehran that what was presented to the EU official were more than suggestions. ‘The Iranian side handed Mora a proposal with revisited ideas,’ an official source in Tehran told Al-Monitor,” Hashem wrote. “According to the same source, ‘the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) issue isn't centric in the new proposal. It's there, but there are other issues with more priority’.”

Hashem also quoted an Iranian official source as implying that the ball is now in the U.S.’s court. “The Biden administration should decide, it can't stay in the middle between the policies of [former President Donald] Trump and what [President Joe] Biden repeated during his election campaign. They master the art of over-simplifying complex issues, and taking things out of context, and this is creating more rifts over the nuclear agreement. It's really easy to return to the deal, but Biden’s administration wants to have the cake and eat it at the same time, which isn't possible,” the source told Hashem. 

In his recent phone conversation with Borrell, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian referred to the recent visit by Mora to Tehran and said during his trip, some initiatives were reviewed.

Amir Abdollahian pointed to the seriousness of the Islamic Republic of Iran about reaching a strong and lasting deal in Vienna, saying Tehran has the goodwill and necessary determination to reach an agreement.

The top Iranian diplomat also thanked Borrell and Mora for their constructive efforts in this regard.

During the telephone conversation, the EU foreign policy chief put emphasis on Iran’s initiatives during the Vienna talks, saying, “We are now on a new path of continuing dialog and focusing on solutions”.

Borrell added, “We are determined to continue our efforts in constant touch with Tehran and Washington to bring their views closer together.”

Borrel then said he is optimistic about reaching a good deal.

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