Negotiations over a new Iran nuclear deal remain paused as the European Union’s lead negotiator, Enrique Mora, is in Tehran this week to meet with Iranian negotiator Ali Bagheri-Kani and seek a “middle way” to end the stalemate over Iran’s demand that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be removed from the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.
U.S. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described the diplomatic effort as “the last bullet.” Venting his frustration with the status of negotiations, Borrell added, “we cannot continue like this forever, because in the meantime Iran continues developing their nuclear program.”
Axios reported that Biden administration officials said they didn’t provide Mora any new U.S. proposals to the Iranians, and the United States is sticking to its message that, in order to lift the IRGC’s FTO designation, Iran would have to agree to reciprocal concessions on issues outside its nuclear program.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh downplayed the potential impact of the visit, saying, “the agenda of Mora, the E.U., and the JCPOA coordinator is only conveying messages and nothing new is expected to happen.”
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on May 11 that the U.S. had “no updates to offer” on Iran, adding that “Mora has been conveying messages back and forth.”
Shortly before Mora’s arrival in Tehran, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence announced the arrest of two French citizens for “organizing chaos, social disorder and destabilizing society” in the country. Iran has a history of arresting European and American nationals under false allegations with the goal of extracting concessions in exchange for their release.
France condemned the “baseless” arrest, and a French diplomatic source said, “Iran’s arrest of two French citizens was a provocation and Tehran would be mistaken to play for time to revive the nuclear deal.” The source added, “there is still use in reviving the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.”
Two other French nationals are held in Iran on national security charges their lawyers say are politically motivated.
Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is expected to visit Tehran this week as well. FM Spokesman Khatibzadeh said discussion of “bilateral, regional and international matters” was on the agenda of the visit.
Al-Thani is reportedly planning to focus on mediating between Iran and European sides in the Vienna talks to bring the parties to “a new middle ground” among other things such as energy security during his trips.
The Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Major General Erik Kurilla, said on May 12, “I view Iran as the most destabilizing force in the Middle East. The United States’ position is that we will not allow a nuclear Iran. However, our concerns about Iran go beyond its nuclear capability.”
Kurilla added that “the Iranian threat requires a firm effort from us and our security partners in the region,” and “CENTCOM is committed to that effort.”
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released their Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, which stated that “Tehran will try to leverage its expanding nuclear program, proxy and partner forces, diplomacy, and military sales and acquisitions to advance its goals.”
The assessment also warned that “Iran will threaten U.S. persons directly and via proxy attacks, particularly in the Middle East,” and that “Iran also remains committed to developing networks inside the United States—an objective it has pursued for more than a decade.