Iran Nuclear Talks Update 10/14

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Andrew Ghalili
– Senior Policy Analyst

Negotiation Status: PAUSED

  • Nuclear deal negotiations between Iran and the United States remain at a stalemate while the Islamic Republic attempts to violently suppress widespread anti-regime protests.
    • In August and early September, the two countries were exchanging proposals through the European Union. The most recent exchange, however, occurred on September 1, when Iran sent demands that U.S. and EU officials claimed were “counterproductive.”
    • Since then, the killing of a 22-year old Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, in Tehran on September 16 sparked prolonged, nationwide protests, and provoked a brutal reaction from the regime.
  •  On October 12, when asked whether the United States is still pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price suggested that negotiations were no longer a priority for the administration, saying, “That’s not our focus right now…Nothing we have heard in recent weeks suggests Tehran has changed its position. Our focus is on the remarkable bravery…the Iranian people are exhibiting.”
    • Still, the White House National Security Strategy, released on October 12, makes a deal with Iran an explicit part of the Biden administration’s approach to “de-escalation” in the Middle East.

Iran Falsely Claims Progress Being Made

  • Likely in an attempt to project confidence and provide assurances to help stabilize the Iranian economy, regime officials have recently suggested that progress has been made in talks with both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as well as with the United States. Comments from IAEA and U.S. officials contradict that assessment, and no tangible progress has been reported.
    • One of the key outstanding Iranian demands in the negotiations is the closure of an IAEA investigation into evidence of nuclear activity found at undeclared locations. While some news outlets reported that “this dispute now appears on track to being settled” after a meeting between the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Mohammad Eslami and IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, no actual progress seems to have been made on this demand.
      • On September 27, Grossi tweeted that “a lot of work lies ahead of us” after two days of conversation with Eslami on “re-engagement to clarify outstanding safeguards issues.”
    • On October 4, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian baselessly suggested that negotiations had advanced, saying, “We have reached a point where a common understanding exists about different issues, which will help us act at a better and faster pace in the final steps toward reaching an agreement.”
      • U.S. and EU officials have not acknowledged any recent correspondence with Iran let alone any progression towards reaching an agreement.
  • On October 5, as protests raged throughout the streets of Iran, the Islamic Republic released Iranian-American Baquer Namazi from prison, where he was being held as a political prisoner along with his son, U.S. citizen Siamak Namazi. Though initial reports suggested that the Namazis were released as part of a broader agreement between the United States and Iran that would see the regime receive $7 billion of its funds currently frozen in South Korea, Baquer was actually only released for medical treatment and Siamak was only temporarily released on furlough. Siamak has already been taken into custody by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and sent back to Evin prison in Iran.
    • The United States said that reports of a transfer of funds related to the release of Baquer Namazi and furlough of Siamak Namazi are categorically

New Sanctions Against Iran

  • President Biden and top White House officials have released multiple statements in support of the protests and condemning the regime’s brutality. New sanctions have also been placed on Iranian entities more directly responsible for the current unrest in the country, such as the regime’s morality police, which arrests and beats women like Mahsa Amini for infractions such as “improper hijab” (not wearing the mandatory headscarf properly).
    • The administration claims that there is no contradiction between supporting the Iranian people and pushing for continued negotiations on a new nuclear deal that would infuse the regime with billions of dollars, further enabling its brutality against Iranians without holding it accountable for its atrocities.
    • Additionally, sanctions on entities such as the morality police, which has no decision-making role within the regime, are far less meaningful than the ones that would be lifted under a nuclear deal, such as sanctions against key entities in Iran’s energy or finance sector.
  • European countries, as well as Canada, have also levied additional sanctions against Iranian entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in response to the killing of Mahsa Amini and the brutal repression of peaceful protests.

Opposition To Deal Grows Within Congress, Iranian Diaspora

  • In their statements on the protests in Iran, some Congressional officials pointed to the Islamic Republic regime’s recent, ongoing terrorism against the Iranian people as another reason why the Biden administration should end nuclear deal negotiations with Iran and shift to an Iran policy that focuses on supporting the Iranian people as they push for a new government.
    • On September 16, Senators Jim Risch (R-ID), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to IAEA chief Grossi expressing concern over Iran’s demand to end the IAEA probe into undisclosed nuclear activities as part of a nuclear deal agreement.
    • Also on September 16, Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) unanimously voted to block a Republican-sponsored resolution introduced by Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) that would’ve forced the Biden administration to provide Congress with the still-pending draft text of the Iran deal.
      • Still, House Democrats, including several who serve on the HFAC, have also recently increased pressure on the Biden administration to ensure that any deal with Iran is reviewed by Congress. As JINSA wrote on September 6, “the number of House Democrats who have voiced concern over a nuclear deal jumped from 20 to 36, as a total of 50 House members signed onto a letter led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) requesting that the Biden administration provide Congress with the full text of any proposal to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement… including any side agreements, and consult with Congress prior to reentering that agreement.”
    • On September 22, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) led a Republican-sponsored bill, The Preventing Underhanded and Nefarious Iranian Supported Homicides (PUNISH) Act, which “would prevent the withdrawal of U.S. sanctions on Iran until the secretary of state certifies to Congress that Iran had not supported any attempts to kill U.S. citizens or Iranians living in the U.S. for at least five years.”
    • Though many Congressional Democrats have released statements or introduced resolutions in support of the Iranian people protesting and against the Islamic Republic regime, advocating for the Biden administration to take actions such as helping Iranians access the internet, they have stopped short of tying it directly to nuclear deal negotiations.
      • On September 29, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) introduced a resolution “reaffirming the United States’ support for the Iranian citizens who have taken to the streets in peaceful protest for their fundamental human rights, and condemning the Iranian security forces for their violent response.” Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Claudia Tenney (R-NY) introduced an identical resolution in the House.
    • House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) dodged a question about whether she would allow a vote on any agreed upon deal with Iran, saying “We have so much we’re doing before that,” and adding, “I support the president, I support a nuclear agreement with Iran.”
  •  As members of the Iranian diaspora have been holding large rallies around the world in support of the protests in Iran, the rallies have included chants and signs calling for the United States and European countries to withdraw from negotiations, as well as for the end of the Islamic Republic regime.
    • Despite calls for regime change from Iranians both inside and outside of Iran, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran and lead negotiator in negotiations Rob Malley recently dismissed those suggestions, saying on October 7, “What the United States wants is a government in Iran that is respectful of the fundamental rights of its people. It’s not a policy of regime change.”
      • One Iranian-American organization, the National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI), went beyond requesting the end of nuclear deal negotiations, writing a letter to President Biden calling for the removal of Mr. Malley from his position as Special Envoy for Iran.