Iran Nuclear Talks Update 11/14

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Andrew Ghalili
– Senior Policy Analyst

Negotiation Status: PAUSED (No Progress Made)

  • Nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran have been stagnant for several months as the Islamic Republic has been preoccupied with brutally repressing the Iranian citizens protesting for their freedom from the regime, and while the United States held its midterm elections.
    • The last round of indirect talks between U.S. and Iranian officials at the negotiation headquarters in Vienna was held in August.
    • With revolutionary protests continuing throughout Iran, U.S. elections were held on November 8, potentially creating room for the Biden administration to recommence indirect negotiations with Iran.

Trend Continues: Iran Touts Fake Progress

  • Tehran has continued its efforts to stabilize its economy and distract from the revolutionary protests, in which Iranians are calling for regime change, by claiming that they are continuing negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
    • One of the key outstanding issues in the negotiations is Iran’s demand that the IAEA prematurely close its investigation into evidence of nuclear activity found at undeclared sites in Iran. Tehran has refused to provide the technically credible answers that the IAEA says are required to close the probe.
    • An Iranian delegation met with the IAEA in Vienna on November 9, after which IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said Iran “didn’t bring anything new,” adding that he will meet with Iranian officials “at a technical level in Iran in a couple of weeks,” after the IAEA Board of Governors (BoG) meeting next week.
      • When they met in June, the 35-nation BoG overwhelmingly passed a resolution against Iran for failing to explain uranium traces found at the undeclared sites. Tehran is hoping that claiming to cooperate with the IAEA, whether it is true or not, may help influence the BoG in Iran’s favor.
      • The Wall Street Journal reported on November 10 that “Iran looks set to face a fresh formal rebuke at the IAEA Board as it fails once again to address Agency questions over safeguards probe into undeclared nuclear material.”
  • As usual, Tehran also continued to blame the United States for the stalemate in negotiations, as Amir-Abdollahian said, “We will not make any concession to the US. We will move within the framework of logic and within the framework of an agreement in which the Islamic Republic’s red lines are observed.”

Biden Administration: No Progress with Iran, Deal is Not a Priority

  • As has been the recent trend, U.S. officials have stressed that negotiating a nuclear deal is not the administration’s focus right now. A Senior Biden Administration official told Axios on October 31, “Even if Iran came back to the table today and said it wanted a nuclear deal, the U.S. was unlikely to move forward.”
  • Rob Malley sat for an interview on October 31 in which he implicitly kept the door open for further nuclear deal diplomacy, noting “It is not on our agenda… we are not going to waste our time on it… if Iran has taken the position it has taken.”
    • Iranian state media falsely denied Malley’s assertions, tweeting, “This couldn’t be further from the truth. Iran never rejected the EU proposal. It offered slight amendments to clarify the ambiguities in the text and prevent a single paragraph from gaining different interpretations.”
  • See JINSA’s analysis of Iran’s rejection of the EU proposal on August 15, and the exchanges since, here.
  • In an interview with Canadian news channel CBC on October 29, when asked about the status of the Iran Nuclear Deal, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected the notion that any progress has been made in the negotiations, saying, “There’s no forward movement, The Iranians continue to try to inject extraneous, unrelated issues into the conversation.”

U.S. Election Results Mean More Congressional Opposition to a Deal

  • Though results are still coming in, it appears likely that Republicans will take the majority of at least one chamber of Congress. This has several implications for nuclear deal negotiations.
    • First, any deal is likely to get even more disapproval with the new Congress than it has over the last two years, during which time it has received substantial bipartisan criticism, both over the deal itself and the lack of transparency throughout the negotiation process.
    • Perhaps more importantly, a majority-Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee would likely use its powers to demand increased transparency on the negotiation process and the status or text of a deal.
      • As JINSA has covered, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have put out statements, sent letters, and proposed legislation opposing and voicing concern over the deal with Iran. Still, with Democrats in control of both the House and Senate, Congress rejected several efforts to increase transparency and hold the Biden administration accountable. For example, on September 16, Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee 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.

Protests and Iranian Aid for Russia Shift American Public Opinion on JCPOA

  • The mass protests in Iran, plus Tehran providing Russia with weapons and training to aid its illegal war against Ukraine, are shifting U.S. and European attention away from nuclear negotiations, as Western nations are now focused on holding the Islamic Regime accountable for its atrocities.
  • A new poll taken in October by CSP/TIPP showed the American public is more supportive of Iranian protestors than of negotiating with the murderous Islamic Republic regime.
    • This held true for both Democrats and Republicans:

Additional Pressure on Iran:

  • In a joint action between the U.S. State and Treasury Departments, 14 individuals and three entities of the Iranian regime were designated for protest repression, censorship, and prison abuses.
  • The State and Treasury Departments also sanctioned the Iranian foundation 15 Khordad, which is affiliated with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, for putting a bounty on Iranian author Salman Rushdie.
    • Khamenei has publicly affirmed the fatwa on Rushdie and “oversees the 15 Khordad Foundation.” The U.S. has not, however, personally designated him Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224.