Iran Nuclear Talks Update 1/9

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Andrew Ghalili – Senior Policy Analyst
Stuart Harris – Intern

Negotiation Status: DEAD (Still trying to revive it)

  • In a noticeable adjustment, private rhetoric from the Biden administration has suggested that nuclear diplomacy with Iran is paused and that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is dead. Notably, however, no administration official has been willing to say as much publicly.
    • Though the U.S. has placed additional sanctions on Iranian entities, and European countries have increased pressure on the Islamic Republic as well, neither the United States nor EU are willing to leave the negotiations table altogether.

U.S. officials further entrench the stance of moving away from JCPOA

  • Israel Hayom reported on January 2 that, in a conversation with incoming Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed President Biden’s recent comments suggesting that the JCPOA is “dead.”
    • Blinken reportedly told Cohen that the Biden Administration is operating under the assumption that a nuclear deal with Iran is “no longer of any viability.”
  • Despite repeatedly acknowledging that Iran killed any chances of reaching a deal last September, White House officials continue to pretend that a deal is viable, still saying the administration is in favor of talks.
    • On January 3, State Department spokesperson Ned Price stated, “We continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve that goal,” when asked about the status of the JCPOA.
    • Nonetheless, Price acknowledged that the negotiations haven’t “been on the table for months”, noting again that “Iranians killed the opportunity for a swift return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA. They most recently did so in September when they turned their backs on a deal that was by all accounts essentially finalized, ready to go.” U.S. Special Envoy for Iran recently made similar comments about Iran killing any chance of reaching a deal in September.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears skeptical that this rhetoric will give way to any real policy changes, stating on January 3, “Unfortunately, contrary to the popular opinion that this dangerous nuclear agreement has been scrapped, despite the recent events in Iran, I think that this possibility has not yet been definitively removed from the [global] agenda…Therefore, we will do everything to prevent the revival of this bad agreement that will lead to a nuclear Iran with international sponsorship.”

Iran indicates fake headway, but cracks start to show

  • As the Islamic Republic ruthlessly continues to execute more young Iranians for their role in anti-regime protests, regime officials continue to try to project some sense of stability and normalcy by falsely claiming progress is being made in negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United States.
    • In an interview with Iranian state media on January 3, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani claimed that talks with the IAEA “are not stalled and instead are being seriously pursued.”
      • Further, when asked about the recent comments from the United States suggesting talks were dead, Bagheri Kani downplayed any shift in momentum, claiming, “Negotiations have been a continuous process…and its ways may have changed, but this process continues.”
    • Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian seemed to imitate U.S. and European officials by repeating one of their most-used phrases over the last year (see: window), saying on January 3, “The window for reaching an agreement on the part of the Islamic Republic of Iran will not always be open…If the opposite parties do not stop hypocrisy, especially the Americans, and the Westerners do not act realistically, it is not certain that the window that is open today will remain open tomorrow.”
      • Like when Western officials made the claim, it does not appear that either side will officially end talks and walk away from the negotiation table any time soon.
    • Ned Price alluded to Iran’s continual, baseless claims that negotiations have been continuing or advancing, saying on January 3, “We remain very skeptical of anything coming out of Tehran on this issue. We’ve also heard what, in some cases, is just purely fiction emanating from Iran. The JCPOA, as we’ve said, has not been our focus. Claims that we are presently engaged in talks to revive the JCPOA – that’s just false.”

UK follows America’s lead in designating IRGC as a terrorist organization

  • The UK is set to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. This comes after a noticeable increase in Iranian terrorist plots against British citizens in the last year.
    • With members of the German Parliament also pursuing a terrorist designation for the IRGC, Europe is beginning to exert increased pressure on Iran. Still, America’s European allies have yet to cut off diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic, something that many Iranians have called