Iran Nuclear Talks Update 6/2

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  • Nuclear deal negotiations between the United States and Iran remain officially paused as Iran appears to shift its key demands, having accepted that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will remain listed as a terrorist organization. Tehran has reverted to highlighting a previous demand: any agreement must be binding for future U.S. presidential administrations.
    • Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian again stressed concerns about the absence of a guarantee that future administrations would obey a deal. Iran has insisted that the White House commit future administrations to follow a nuclear deal, however the U.S. is unable to make this guarantee – something it has repeatedly communicated to the Tehran.
  • Bipartisan congressional opposition to the prospective Iran nuclear deal continues to mount, while support for continuing to drag out negotiations has further deteriorated.
    • Speaking in New York on May 31, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) called for abandoning negotiations and urged the Biden administration to move on to a new plan, including snap back sanctions and deterrence, to deal with Iran. He said repeatedly that “hope is not a national security strategy.”
    • Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Iran China Accountability Act, which would prohibit the expenditure of federal funds for a nuclear deal until Iran terminates partnerships with China and with its proxies. A companion act was introduced in the House.
  • Seyed Hossein Mousavian, former Chief of Iran’s National Security Foreign Relations Committee, proposed that the U.S. and Iran agree to an interim plan that would limit Iran’s uranium enrichment and require Iran to allow the IAEA to confirm that the country is not manufacturing centrifuges in return for the U.S. lifting sanctions.
    • In his May 25 testimony for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley suggested that a return to the JCPOA is itself an initial platform, not a conclusive measure, to deal with Iran. He noted, “the Biden-Harris administration has devised its own strategy: … building on that deal [the JCPOA] to seek a broader, follow-on diplomatic outcome that enjoys strong congressional backing.”
  • The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) released two reports in May highlighting advancements in Iran’s nuclear program.
    • The quarterly IAEA report confirmed that Iran has not yet provided technically reasonable explanations for evidence of uranium particles at several undeclared sites. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh responded that the report was not “fair and balanced.”
    • An additional quarterly IAEA report determined that Iran increased its supply of 60% highly enriched uranium by approximately 9.9 kg to 43.1 kg. This amount is sufficient to build a nuclear bomb, although Iran claims “its intentions are entirely peaceful.”
    • Reuters obtained a draft resolution showing that the United States, France, Britain, and Germany are urging the IAEA Board of Governors, which meets next on June 6, to “rebuke Iran for failing to answer longstanding questions on uranium traces at undeclared sites.” IAEA resolutions condemning Iran could further impede nuclear talks.
  • Iran’s naval aggression – most recently seen through their seizure of two Greek tankers – may hinder
    • On May 27, the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced that it had seized two Greek-flagged oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, in retaliation for Greece’s role in the U.S. seizure of Iranian oil in April.
  • The Israeli Air Force conducted drills simulating attacks on nuclear facilities in Iran.
    • These military drills, called “Chariots of Fire,” are the Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF) largest exercises yet. Over the past year, the IDF has focused on “prepar[ing] a credible military threat against Tehran’s nuclear activities.”