Iran Nuclear Talks Update 5/27

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  • The JINSA Iran Policy Project, co-chaired by Amb. Eric Edelman and Gen. Chuck Wald (Ret.), released a new report, “Time for Plan B on Iran,” detailing why the administration needs to acknowledge that its attempts to return to the JCPOA have failed and how to implement a plan B.
  • Though Iran nuclear deal negotiations have been stalled for weeks over Iran’s demand that the U.S. lift the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation, President Biden has reportedly made a final decision not to give in to that demand.
  • On May 25, Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley publicly briefed the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on the status of negotiations.
    • While Malley confirmed that “all options are on the table,” he also stated that Biden believes “the only solution here is a diplomatic one,” noting to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) that he believes a “military option cannot resolve this issue” and that “there is no military response” to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.
    • Senator Menendez (D-NJ) asked Malley specifically about the administration’s “plan B” in the case of failed negotiations. Though Malley acknowledged that the odds of talks succeeding are low, he dodged any questions about a Plan B by saying he could not publicly discuss those plans.
    • JINSA analyzed several of Malley’s arguments, including that Iran’s recent history of aggression is evidence that maximum pressure failed – in reality, Iran’s malign activity has had its largest increases during periods of diplomatic engagement.
  • European negotiators and officials involved in the talks still offer optimistic evaluations of the potential to return to a potent, effective deal.
    • Stephanie Al-Qaq, the British representative for the negotiations, tweeted on May 25, “we reach point at which the deal has been hollowed out = no longer worth returning to.”
      • Though her comments were originally interpreted by some as her saying the deal was already dead, she clarified to a JINSA analyst that “restoration and implementation of the #JCPOA remains the best way to restrict Iran’s nuclear program.”
    • EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell commented on May 13 that talks were “unblocked” and that European negotiator Enrique Mora’s trip went “better than expected.”
  • A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report released on May 25 established that Iran accessed secret International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports over fifteen years ago and used them to “mislead the world body’s nuclear watchdog.” Iran used the documents to prepare for IAEA questioning and investigations into allegations of nuclear weapon development.
    • Proof of past Iranian manipulation of the IAEA will likely further frustrate negotiation efforts that are already at a standstill.
    • When asked about the WSJ article by Senator Young (R-Ind.), Malley admitted that Iran “absolutely…ha[d] a covert nuclear program.”
  • Meanwhile, throughout Iran, activists and protestors participating in labor union strikes and demonstrations against increasing prices have been arrested, with the homes of some activists raided. Security forces have treated protesters “with excessive force.” Videos of protests on social media show Iranians chanting anti-regime slogans, including one they have regularly used in protests for years: “No Gaza, No Lebanon, my life only for Iran”