Iran Nuclear Talks Update 7/7

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  • Renewed nuclear negotiations in Qatar ended after two days on June 29 without making any progress toward a deal or setting plans for another round of talks.
    • The European Union (E.U.) coordinator for the negotiations Enrique Mora tweeted on June 29 that the Doha talks failed to produce “the progress the E.U. team as coordinator had hoped for.”
      • U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley told NPR on July 5 that the recent indirect talks were “more than a little bit of a wasted occasion.
      • In contrast to Mora’s assessment, on June 30 Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Majid Takht Ravanchi referred to the talks in Qatar as “serious and positive.” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian similarly stated on July 4, “Our assessment of Doha talks is positive.”
    • After the fruitless talks in Doha, U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price stated on July 5, “We are at a point where the lack of forward momentum, the lack of progress, is tantamount to backtracking.
    • Price added on July 5 that “there is not another round of talks currently on the books.
      • Bloomberg had previously reported that talks may start up again after Biden’s upcoming trip to the Middle East.
  • Two unresolved issues – the removal of sanctions and guarantees that the United States will not leave a renewed deal – pose barriers to advancing nuclear negotiations.
    • On July 6, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Shamkhani reportedly told Qatar’s Foreign Minister, “We entered into negotiations to reach a strong and lasting agreement, but sanctions against Iran must be lifted so that all countries can easily invest in Iran.”
    • Iran also continues to demand guarantees that any deal could not be abandoned by future American presidents.
    • Also under discussion in Doha were “Iran’s access to funds blocked in South Korea [and] sanctions on airlines”
  •  U.S. officials have publicly doubted the sincerity of Iran’s negotiating efforts, appearing frustrated when repeatedly noting that Tehran is making demands outside of JCPOA requirements.
    • One U.S. official told Axios correspondent Barak Ravid on June 29, “The Iranians… raised old issues that have been settled for months & even raised new issues that are unrelated to the 2015 nuclear agreement. If there is a side that needs to take a decision, it’s them.”
      • Amir-Abdollahian denied these allegations, falsely declaring, “We have no claims that go beyond the JCPOA.”
    • On July 5, both Rob Malley and Ned Price reiterated that it is unclear whether Iran wants a deal.
  • Though Iran claimed on June 30 that the Iranian “negotiating team is ready to engage constructively again to conclude and reach agreement,” Iran’s desire to return to compliance with the JCPOA remains unclear.
    • In contrast to the urgency suggested by recent statements from the U.S. and the E.U. , an Iranian official told Reuters on July 1, “We are in no rush. Our nuclear program is advancing every day. Time is on our side.
    • Iran reportedly plans to reach out to the E.U. “for the next stage of talks,” yet Tehran continues to put the onus on the U.S. to make progress.
      • Ravanchi noted on June 30, “The ball is in U.S.’ court, and if the U.S. acts realistically and shows its serious intention to implement its obligations, the agreement is not out of reach.”
      • Amir-Abdollahian remarked on July 4, “TheS. side attended talks in Doha without an approach based on initiative and progress,” noting that “we should see how the U.S. wants to seize this chance for diplomacy.”
  •  The United States’ European allies continue to express support for a nuclear deal with Iran, while acknowledging the window for diplomacy will not remain open indefinitely.
    • Before the meeting of the U.N. Security Council on June 30, a joint statement issued by the E3 – France, Britain, and Germany – emphasized that Iran must “conclude the deal, while it is still possible.” The statement acknowledged that Iran’s current nuclear program “is now more advanced than at any point in the past,” with its recent nuclear development “rapidly unsettling the balance of the package… [being] negotiated over many months.”
      • Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid visited France on July 5 and reportedly urged France to adopt a “tougher and time-limited” approach to negotiations: “[Iran] won’t agree to anything without a credible military threat. The feeling is that there won’t be a deal, and if there is no deal, then there needs to be something else.
  •  Announcing new sanctions on “15 individuals and entities located in Iran, Vietnam, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong for supporting ‘Iranian energy trade generating millions of dollars’ worth of illicit revenue,’” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted, “Absent a commitment from Iran to return to the JCPOA, an outcome we continue to pursue, we will keep using our authorities to target Iran’s exports of energy products.”
  • Iran continued its decades-old practice of hostage-taking to enhance its negotiating leverage.
    • On June 28, a French national was sentenced to prison sentence for 8 years and 8 months on charges of espionage and “propaganda against the regime.”
    • Iran also currently holds two or more Belgian prisoners, prompting Belgium to agree to a deal to exchange them for an Iranian diplomat who was sentenced to 20 years in prison over a foiled 2018 bomb plot.