Iran Nuclear Talks Update 3/15

  • Nuclear negotiations with Iran have been on hold since Friday, when EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted “a pause in #ViennaTalks is needed.” The pause stems from Russia’s sudden demands last week – for guarantees that its trade with Iran will be exempt from U.S. sanctions related to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine – but the added delays also buy more time for Iran to continue advancing its nuclear program.
    • The U.S. State Department has said it would not agree to Russia’s demands, with Secretary Blinken calling Russia’s demands “irrelevant” and “not in any way linked together” with the JCPOA nuclear agreement.
  • Despite Iran’s and Russia’s demands, both countries argue the United States remains the holdup on a nuclear deal:
    • On Monday Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson said “We are currently having a breather from the nuclear talks. We are not at a point of announcing an agreement now since there are some important open issues that need to be decided upon by Washington.”
      • Iran has continuously demanded that the U.S. remove the IRGC from its Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list and requested guarantees from the U.S. that no future president will withdraw from the deal. A more recent Iranian demand has to do with changes in Tehran’s favor regarding the sequencing of implementation.
    • Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov, Moscow’s lead negotiator in Vienna, deflected blame for the delay away from Russia’s demands, stressing that “in light of endless speculations there is the need to recall that the conclusion of the #ViennaTalks, which is very close, doesn’t depend on Russia only. A number of other participants raised questions which need to be addressed to finalize the deal on restoration of #JCPOA.”
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said he would visit Moscow on Tuesday to discuss Russia’s demands and the nuclear talks in Vienna more generally.
  • While U.S. officials have said for weeks already that only days remain to secure a nuclear deal, the State Department appeared to soften that oft-repeated sense of urgency in response to Russia’s last-minute demands, saying on Sunday that, absent a Russian reply “in the coming week,” Washington would need to “very quickly consider an alternative path.”
  • Meanwhile, over the weekend Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fired an estimated twelve ballistic missiles, likely Fateh-110s, purportedly targeting Israeli “strategic centers” in Erbil, Iraq, in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike last week that killed Iranian military personnel in Syria.
    • No Americans or U.S. government buildings were damaged in the attack, though one missile landed close to an unfinished U.S. consulate facility.
    • U.S. government officials denied the United States was the intended target of the attack. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, “this attack targeted a civilian residence in Erbil, the Kurdistan Region’s capital city, without any justification.”
      • Though there was initially some reporting about anonymous U.S. officials confirming an Israeli presence in the building that was struck, a senior Biden administration official reportedly refuted those statements and said “the administration believes that the building that was hit was a civilian residence only and did not also serve as an Israeli training site.”
    • Iranian officials including Iran’s ambassador to Iraq also reportedly denied that the attack targeted the United States, saying, “The [Erbil] operation had nothing to do with the Americans; neither the US embassy nor the US consulate. This also had nothing to do with Iraq’s sovereignty, and is not a disrespect to Iraqi people and government.”
  • Also on Monday, in the latest sign of steadily-building Congressional opposition to the administration’s Iran policy, 49 Republican senators signed a letter outlining their opposition to any deal that fails to completely block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapons capability, constrain its missile programs and address its support for terrorism.
    • Representative Elaine Luria (D-VA), a Navy veteran who is the Vice Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, tweeted that “if reports are accurate, the Biden Administration must withdraw its negotiations with Iran. We cannot re-enter a failed JCPOA to further empower Iran and threaten global security.”
    • Representative Lisa McClain, who also serves on the House Armed Services Committee, tweeted, “The IRGC is claiming responsibility for the attack targeting the US consulate in Erbil. It’s clear Iran is no friend to the United States, and Biden should not be negotiating with terrorists.”

JINSA’s previous Iran Nuclear Talks Updates:

Iran Nuclear Talks Update 3/11

Iran Nuclear Talks Update 3/7

Iran Nuclear Talks Update 3/3

Iran Nuclear Talks Update 3/2

Iran Nuclear Talks Update 3/1

Iran Nuclear Talks Update 2/28