Analysis: US (unlike EU) Doesn’t Find Iran’s Demands “Reasonable”

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Negotiation status: PAUSED (exchanging responses)

  • Via the EU, the United States replied today to Iran’s response to an initial EU draft text aimed at overcoming remaining hurdles to a nuclear deal. Though U.S. officials have yet to clarify the contents of the reply, initial reports suggest the United States did not meet Iran’s demands.
    • Axios reported that the United States clarified “it will not agree to conditions between Iran’s return to implementing the nuclear agreement and the closing of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigations into its suspected nuclear activities.”
    • According to Politico, a person familiar with the U.S. response said it focused on Iran’s demand for guarantees that it will receive what it argues should be the full economic benefits of a deal, and that the U.S. response “falls short of Iran’s expectations. So now we have to see if they realize this is as good as it gets or decide to push for more.”
    • Seyed Mohammad Marandi, an advisor to the Iranian negotiating team, denied the reporting from Al-Arabiya which suggested that “the US has rejected all the additional conditions requested by Iran, and urged Iran to lift any restrictions on international inspections,” and that “Iran should not be allowed to enrich uranium beyond purity level of 4%.”
  • A 10th round of negotiations in Vienna is now expected, though no date has been announced.
  • Talks should be over and the deal should be dead. The EU set an August 15 deadline for Iran to approve its final nuclear deal text, rather than reply with counterdemands, saying that there was no room for further negotiation. U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price had said on August 16 that “what could be negotiated … has been negotiated.”

Is an agreement imminent?

  • Initial reports on today’s U.S. response suggest that key issues remain to be hammered out, contrary to the statements emanating from the EU and United States since last week regarding negotiations being finished.
    • Yesterday, a senior Biden administration official said a “deal is closer than it was two weeks ago, ” and recently Israeli officials had become increasingly concerned that a deal was about to be agreed.
      • On August 23, Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata met with his American counterpart Jake Sullivan in Washington, and reportedly urged the United States not to concede Iran’s demands.
    • Perceptions that a deal was imminent were strengthened by recent signaling, in Iranian and U.S. official circles and media alike, that their respective side was getting the better of the negotiations.
      • Iranian negotiator Ali Bagheri-Kani has reportedly been trying to sell the deal to Iranian lawmakers by outlining the long list of concessions Iran extracted from the United States.
      • Though several news outlets reported that Iran had dropped some of its demands and eased others, Iranian officials quickly stated that those demands either had not been dropped or had only been eased because they were partially met.

Iran continues demanding extra concessions:

  • Iran had insisted on three keydemands prior to the text proposed by the EU, none of which are stipulated or required by the original JCPOA agreement:
    1. Lifting U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC);
    2. Ending an IAEA investigation into evidence of prohibited nuclear activities at undeclared Iranian facilities; and
    3. Guaranteeing that Iran will still continue to reap the benefits of a nuclear deal even if the United States were to withdraw from it in the future.
  • Reports suggest that the initial EU text went beyond the JCPOA by including concessions for Iran on two of the issues – IRGC sanctions and the IAEA investigation – and that the Iranian reply did not contain any further demands regarding them.
    • Iran continues to insist it will not enter any nuclear agreement until the IAEA probe is closed. Seyed Mohammad Marandi, an advisor to the Iranian negotiating team, repeated on August 23 that “no deal will be implemented before the IAEA Board of Directors PERMANENTLY closes the false accusations file.”
      • Politico reported on August 15 that the EU proposal had called for the end of the IAEA probe “if the IAEA confirms that Iran has provided credible answers into the origin of the uranium traces prior to the so-called reimplementation day — the day that the nuclear deal will go into effect.”
    • Al-Arabiya reported on August 16 that the EU text “includes assurances from the US that it will lift sanctions on some IRGC-linked businesses.”
  • EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell responded positively to Iran’s response to his text, saying, “there was a response from Iran that I considered reasonable.”

Additional comments and reports:

  • On August 24, the same day it responded to Iran’s nuclear demands, the United States launched two rounds of airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Syria, initially in retaliation for the latter’s rocket fire against U.S. forces in Syria on August 15 – the same day that Iran’s negotiators responded to the initial EU draft text for a nuclear deal.