Iran Nuclear Talks Update 12/22

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Andrew Ghalili
– Senior Policy Analyst

 Negotiation Status: PAUSED (No Progress)

  • Nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran remain at a standstill as Iranian officials continue to push for restarting talks.
  • Though U.S. officials have consistently said for months that a nuclear deal is no longer on the agenda, the European mediators of the negotiations have been less firm.
    • The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borell, said on December 15, “We do not have a better option than the JCPOA to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. This remains in our own interest in spite of the fact that the nuclear deal remains in a stalemate and the escalation of Iran’s nuclear program is of great concern, we have to continue engaging as much as possible in trying to revive this deal.”
    • Iranian representatives including lead negotiator and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with Borrell and other EU officials on December 20 in Jordan, after which Borrell tweeted that it was a “necessary meeting… amidst deteriorating Iran-EU relations” and that the two sides “agreed we must keep communication open and restore JCPOA on basis of Vienna negotiations.”

Biden Says JCPOA is Dead. Is it?

  • A video clip, filmed on the sidelines of a campaign event on November 4, shows President Biden saying that the JCPOA is “dead,” but that the United States can’t announce it publicly.
  • However, Biden’s comments do not seem reflective of his administration’s policy, which has not shifted away from negotiations and towards a Plan B strategy.
    • U.S. officials such as Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley continue to suggest that talks have stalemated solely because Iran won’t just accept the previous U.S. proposals—and not because the United States is no longer willing to enter into a deal with Iran. As Malley said in an interview with Foreign Policy on November 30, “The JCPOA is not on the agenda because of Iran’s position.”
    • On December 20, Malley tweeted, “Sept. ‘was not the first time Iran’s leaders had turned their backs on a deal that was on the table, approved by all. But this last instance dashed our collective hope for a swift, mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA.’”
      • Malley has previously acknowledged that Iran’s nuclear advances would eventually make a nuclear deal irrelevant. In October 2021, Malley said, “At some point, the JCPOA will have been so eroded because Iran will have made advances that cannot be reversed, in which case we can’t be talking – you can’t revive a dead corpse.”

Trend Continues: Iran Touts Fake Progress with IAEA

  • Tehran has continued its efforts to stabilize its economy and distract from the revolutionary protests by claiming that they are making progress in talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
    • Politico reported on December 22 that while IAEA experts met Iranian officials on December 17, “no progress was made on Sunday to negotiate over what’s supposed to be the last remaining obstacle to an agreement on reviving the Iran nuclear deal.”
    • One of the key outstanding issues in the negotiations is Iran’s demand that the IAEA prematurely close their investigation into evidence of nuclear activity found at undeclared sites in Iran. Iran has refused to provide the Agency with the necessary, credible answers it has said are required to close the probe, and IAEA chief Rafael Grossi had repeatedly noted that there are no political solutions to this problem.
    • Iran has suggested Grossi may visit Tehran in January to continue talks.

E3 Calls Out Iranian Violations of JCPOA and UNSCR 2231… But Still Won’t Snapback

  • After a United Nations Security Council meeting on Iran on December 19, the E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) released a statement emphasizing several key points:
    • Iran has twice refused to take the deal proposed by the JCPOA Coordinator in March and August, and the regime has made continued unacceptable demands beyond the scope of the JCPOA.
    • The JCPOA and the implementation of IAEA Safeguards are separate. Iran has internationally binding legal obligations to account for all nuclear material and to cooperate with the IAEA.
    • Iran continues to undertake ballistic missile activities that are inconsistent with UNSC Resolution 2231.
    • Iran’s weapons proliferation poses a real and significant threat to the region and the whole international community
    • Since August, Iran has transferred hundreds of UAVs to Russia, which has used them to kill civilians and target infrastructure
  •  While the E3 statement acknowledged the Iranian violations of UNSCR 2231, it failed to mention one key action that the Security Council could take in response: taking advantage of the “snapback” procedure in UNSCR 2231 that would permanently return all the UN sanctions set to expire over the coming few years.
    • JINSA analysts have detailed why and how snapback can be initiated by any of the “participants” as defined in UNSCR 2231, which includes the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, European Union, Russia, China, and Iran.