Testing the red lines in the Iran nuclear talks

News: Multilateral nuclear talks have started once again in Vienna with a new Iranian negotiating team. For the time being, the talks seems to have no positive outcomes. Both US and Iran are completely rigid and want the other party to back down and make concessions before they will move.

Hence, it’s unclear whether the negotiations in Vienna would be able to deliver substantive results.

Must Read: Tehran’s white flag in Vienna
What are the reasons behind the current deadlock b/w US & Iran?

Due to the following factors:

Firstly, Iran is playing the North Korean card, and is moving towards leaving the economic sphere of the United States and Europe and joining China and Russia.

Secondly, the US does not have a very clear direction for Iran’s future. This is because the U.S. President is refusing to commit to lift sanctions on Iran during the remaining years of his presidency.

What is the stand taken by various stakeholders?

Iran insists on all sanctions being lifted. Its negotiators have talked of the fundamental injustice committed by the U.S., an injustice in which the Europeans have been complicit.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s demands have consistently centered on full sanctions removal.

The newly elected government headed by Ebrahim Raisi is trying to leverage Iran’s expanding nuclear programme to get more concessions from the international community, without paying significant costs. As a result, there is an increasing pessimism on whether the Iran nuclear deal can be revived.

The USA is asking Iran to return to reduced enrichment of uranium and accept full International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections.

The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has warned Iran that “the hour is getting very late” to return to the nuclear deal. However, he also added that “it is not too late for Iran to reverse course to save the deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear capabilities, in exchange for an easing of sanctions from Washington”.

Europe till now has been almost non-existent in these new talks. It is trying to close the deal as quickly as possible, as Iran ramps up uranium enrichment. But at the same time, it doesn’t seem to be a forceful mediator in these talks, given that there are the Chinese and the Russians, who are in favour of the Iranians.

China: It has made comments regarding “nuclear hypocrisy” of the West, indicating that it is sympathetic to the fundamental arguments of the Iranian negotiators.

Israel: Israeli officials have been pressing European governments and the U.S. on a real Iranian nuclear threat. It continues to see the Islamic Republic of Iran as an existential threat. From the Israeli point of view, this threat can be justified by Iran’s current hegemonic military drive into the Levant region.

Levant = Historically, the region along the eastern Mediterranean shores, roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and certain adjacent areas)

Source: This post is based on the article “Testing the red lines in the Iran nuclear talks” published in The Hindu on 20th Dec 2021.

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