Iran Nuclear Talks Update 4/5

Negotiation status: PAUSED

  • State Department spokesman Ned Price was described on April 4 as saying, “the United States still believes there is an opportunity to overcome the remaining differences with Iran in talks over its nuclear program.”
  • Also on April 4, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, “America is responsible for the halt of these talks … a deal is very much within reach.”

Where are negotiators?

  • Negotiators are currently in their home countries.
    • Officials have not been in Vienna, the site of negotiations, since the eighth round of talks was suspended indefinitely on March 7.
    • It has been roughly 5 months since the Biden administration first said that only weeks remained to secure a deal.

What’s holding up a deal?

  • Iran is demanding that the United States remove its designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
    • Lifting the FTO, which Tehran has declared a “red line” in its negotiating position, is not required for the United States to resume compliance with the original JCPOA nuclear deal.
    • While the Biden administration had reportedly considered lifting the FTO in exchange for a public Iranian commitment to deescalate its regional aggression, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that “a source close to the U.S. negotiating team” said one U.S. demand for delisting the IRGC “was a commitment by Iran not to target Trump administration officials in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing.”
      • Iran’s Prosecutor-General Mohammad-Jafar Montazeri appeared to rebuke this demand and double down on the Iranian threats with respect to avenging Soleimani’s death, saying Tehran will not “abandon” the case until those responsible for Soleimani’s death are “punished.

Additional comments and reports

  • While U.S. officials’ comments since last week suggest that a deal is “neither imminent nor certain,” Iranian officials have stated repeatedly they are willing to continue waiting for the United States to respond to their demand to lift the IRGC’s FTO designation.
    • On April 4, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said a deal “would no longer be in our interest … as soon as Iran’s advancements in its nuclear program go beyond the non-proliferation benefits that we would otherwise accrue from [JCPOA].”
    • Price also lamented that Iran’s demands are unrelated to the JCPOA, saying it’s clear “who has made constructive proposals, who has introduced demands that are unrelated to the JCPOA, and how we reached this current moment,” of a pause in the negotiations.
    • On the same day, Press Secretary Jen Psaki criticized Iran for having “raised a number of issues that have nothing to do with mutual compliance under the nuclear deal.”
    • Also on April 4, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said, “if there’s a pause in Vienna Talks, that’s because of the excessive demands by the US … we’ll never yield to the excessive demands.”
      • On April 3, he had saidwe are close to an agreement in the negotiations.”
      • Foreign Ministry spokesman Khatibzadeh added that Iran would only return to Vienna to finalize a deal, not to resume negotiations.
  • Public, bipartisan opposition to lifting the IRGC’s FTO designation continues to mount.
    • On April 4, Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL) and Scott Perry (R-PA) introduced the Preventing Terror Sympathizers from Appeasing Terrorists Act, a bill aiming to block the White House from removing the IRGC’s FTO designation without congressional approval.
    • Also on April 4, Rep. August Pfluger (R-TX) noted the importance of congressional oversight over the potential deal, saying, “it’s very important that we stand strong against largest state sponsor of terrorism … Congress needs to have a say. We need to have our voices heard.”
    • On April 1, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, “[the] IRGC is a terrorist organization. And I’m for continuing it being designated as a terrorist organization.”
    • Last week, the Republican Study Committee circulated a research memo to its members on the potential ramifications of lifting the FTO designation and the need for the Biden administration to submit any nuclear deal to Congress for review, as per the requirements of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA). The memo featured JINSA’s infographic on how INARA enables Congress to review and potentially block an Iran deal.
    • S. sources told Axios two weeks ago that the “White House has become increasingly concerned about the domestic political fallout of some kind of a deal with Iran regarding the IRGC and started cooling down to the idea.” Several congressional Democrats, in addition to many Republicans, have publicly spoken out against lifting the FTO since that report.
  • On Sunday, Iran also missed a second deadline in as many weeks for clarifying IAEA concerns about suspected undeclared work on building a nuclear weapon, continuing a years-old pattern of stonewalling international inspectors on this issue.

JINSA’s Previous Iran Nuclear Talks Updates:

Iran Nuclear Talks Update 3/29

Iran Nuclear Talks Update 3/24

Iran Nuclear Talks Update 3/22

Iran Nuclear Talks Update 3/16

Iran Nuclear Talks Update 3/15

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