Iran Nuclear Talks Update 4/25

  • Nuclear negotiations with Iran have been stalled since early March, with the final outstanding issue reportedly being Tehran’s demand that the United States lift its Foreign Terrorism Organization (FTO) designation against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
  • Recent reports suggest that the Biden administration intends to reject Iran’s demand to lift the FTO designation on the IRGC.
    • After a call between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on April 24, Bennett said, “I am sure that President Biden … will not allow the IRGC to be removed from the list of terrorist organizations,” adding, “Israel has clarified its position on the issue: The IRGC is the largest terrorist organization in the world.”
      • Axios reported that “the Biden administration has recently started discussing a scenario in which the nuclear deal isn’t revived,” and “Israel is pressing the administration to cooperate on a ‘Plan B’ in case that happens.” See JINSA’s November 2021 NatSec Brief: S. & Israel “Plan B” for Iran for more on how the U.S. can prepare for a breakdown in nuclear deal talks.
    • Times of Israel reported on April 20 that an Israeli official said, “Biden administration officials notified their European counterparts that Washington does not plan on delisting Iran’s [IRGC] as part of the nuclear talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”
    • Hours later, the Wall Street Journal reported that America’s European diplomatic partners suspect the FTO designation will remain in place, though the Biden administration still hasn’t indicated a decision.
      • The Washington Post also reported over a week ago that the United States plans to reject the Iranian demand that the United States lift the IRGC’s designation.
    • Comments from State Department officials have suggested that, since lifting the FTO designation would go beyond the requirements of the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement, the United States would only do so if Iran also addressed issues that go beyond the JCPOA, which Tehran has stated in the past it will not do.
      • On April 21, a State Department spokesperson said, “if Iran wants sanctions lifting that goes beyond the JCPOA, they will need to address concerns of ours beyond the JCPOA.”
      • The Israeli official cited in the Times of Israel article also said that the administration “is still considering delisting part of the IRGC while keeping its elite Quds [F]orce on the FTO list.”
        • The Quds Force, formerly headed by Qasem Soleimani, is the IRGC’s elite expeditionary arm responsible for terrorist operations and illicit weapons proliferation abroad.
        • The Quds Force was designated a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) by the U.S. Department of Treasury under Executive Order 13224 and as “Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators and their Supporters” pursuant to Executive Order (EO) 13382 in 2007, however it is not currently nor has it ever been listed as an FTO.
  • Iranian officials maintain that they have zero intention of walking back any demands or adding new elements to the negotiations, saying they are sticking to their red lines and just waiting for a response from the United States.
    • In response to a reported U.S. offer to delist the IRGC if Tehran promises to stop targeting U.S. officials in “retaliation” for the death of Soleimani, Iranian officials have doubled down on their desire to avenge Soleimani’s death by continuing to threaten attacks against Americans and U.S. interests.
      • Commander of the IRGC’s Navy, Alireza Tangsiri, said on April 21 that the idea of Iran giving up on avenging Soleimani’s death is “pure fantasy,” adding, “the Supreme Leader has emphasized the need for revenge and the Revolutionary Guards’ top commander has said that revenge is inevitable and that we will choose the time and place for it.”
      • Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said on April 18 that bringing those involved in Soleimani’s killing to justice is “a basic and definite principle” of Iran’s foreign policy, adding “the perpetrators and advisers of this cowardly act will not go unpunished.”
    • Mohammad Eslami, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told Iranian state news agency IRNA on April 20, “technical issues and discussions in the Vienna talks have been completed … Only political issues remain.” He was presumably referring to the FTO designation.
  • Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran has started operating a new underground workshop at Natanz that “will make parts for uranium-enriching centrifuges with machines moved there from its now-closed Karaj facility.”
    • Iran had previously notified the IAEA that it intended to move production of advanced centrifuges from Karaj, which was damaged in a June 2021 covert attack, to a new facility at Isfahan before subsequently announcing this new facility for the same purpose at Natanz.
    • The IAEA says it installed surveillance cameras at the new workshop at Natanz, though Iran has violated its IAEA safeguards agreement by preventing inspectors from accessing the camera data until it receives U.S. sanctions relief.

JINSA’s Previous Iran Nuclear Talks Updates: