Iran Nuclear Talks Update 8/9

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Negotiation status:  PAUSED

  • Though European and American officials claim the text for a revived Iran nuclear deal has been finalized and the negotiations have concluded, no agreement has been reached and Iran maintains that more is needed “to reach the final text of the agreement.”
    • European Union (EU) Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell stated on August 8, “What can be negotiated has been negotiated, and it’s now in a final text.”
    • A senior EU official stated on August 8, “The negotiation is over. It is up to the parties to take the deal.”
      • A statement by the E3—Britain, France, and Germany—confirmed on August 5 that “there will be no re-opening of negotiations.”
    • Russian Ambassador and chief negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov likewise noted on August 7, “We stand 5 minutes or 5 seconds from the finish line” with “3 or 4 issues” remaining unresolved.
  • According to Iran, the “final” text still requires extensive review: An official at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) noted on August 8 that EU coordinator for the negotiations Enrique Mora “presented some ideas on remaining issues to the parties… But these items require comprehensive review…”
    • An Iranian MFA official also stated on August 8, “Given the continuation of discussions on some remaining important issues, we’re not yet at a stage to finalize the text.

Where are the negotiators?

  • The delegations of negotiators are en route to their respective capitals, departing Vienna after round 9 of the nuclear talks concluded on August 8.

What issues remain?

  • Iran refuses to set aside its demand that the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) close its multiyear investigation into its nuclear program. The nuclear watchdog released a report in May of 2022 confirming that Iran failed to plausibly explain the presence of uranium particles discovered at several undeclared sites.
    • Ulyanov, while acknowledging “progress” on resolving safeguards issues, affirmed on August 7 that such issues have “not been fully settled.”
    • The deputy head of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s office, Mohammad Jamshidi, said on August 6 that Raisi has maintained a “firm position…that a final agreement could be reached only when safeguards claims were resolved and closed.”
    • Despite the Deputy of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Behrouz Kamalvandi, stating on August 6 that “we are talking” about safeguards issues, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on August 7 that “several Western diplomats said Sunday [August 7] that Tehran has doubled down on this condition [that the IAEA dissolve its probe into Iran’s nuclear program] in the past few days of talks and there is no agreement on the issue.”
    • Politico reported on August 8, “According to one senior Western official, that deal will see the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors pass a resolution closing the probe into the nuclear material, if Tehran provides answers on the origin of the uranium traces that are deemed credible by the IAEA.”
    • A senior EU official told the Wall Street Journal that the safeguards issue “is something external which has nothing to do with the nuclear accord.”
    • Iran does appear to have completely dropped their demand that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be removed from a State Department terrorist list.

Is an agreement imminent?

  • The answer is the same as it’s been for the last eight months – maybe. Though European officials are using firmer language than they ever have to say that there is no room left for negotiation, Iran still has every incentive to drag out talks and appears willing to do so for its safeguards demands.
  • Ulyanov had previously tweeted on August 6, “Despite a few remaining differences the negotiators have all the chances to fulfil [sic] their task successfully.”
  • On August 6, advisor to Iran’s negotiating team Seyed Mohammad Marandi reportedly estimated there to be a 50 percent chance of a deal being reached.
  • Borrell stated on August 8, “Behind every technical issue and every paragraph in the final text of the agreement lies a political decision that needs to be taken in capitals. If these answers are positive, then we can sign this deal.”

Additional comments and reports:

  • Although Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on August 7, “We are serious about reaching a solid and stable agreement,” Iran continues to place the onus on the United States to reach a deal.
    • The Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian stated on August 7, “Of course, the result depends whether the United States wants an agreement to take place and whether it will show necessary flexibility and realism in practice.”
    • The Iranian Foreign Ministry noted on August 8, “The Iranian delegation has presented its constructive opinions to the other side, and now the outcome of #ViennaTalks depends on the other side’s resolve to make the necessary political decisions.”
  • In May, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi wrote, “After many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles at any of the three locations where the Agency has conducted complementary accesses (inspections).”
    • Grossi said in August that in the last two months, during which time Iran has turned off at least 27 IAEA cameras at its nuclear facilities, “There were lots of activities in terms of producing parts for more centrifuges that the IAEA is not in a position to confirm, so we will have to find a way to address this.”
      • He added that if Iran wants “to be treated as every other country… good words will not do it. What you need to do is to be transparent and compliant.”
    • The Senate will be on recess for multiple weeks beginning this week.
      • The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) requires that the Administration submit any nuclear agreement with Iran for Congressional review within five days of reaching an agreement, but Congress only has 30-days to review the deal.
      • Though there was a 60-day extension included in INARA for the 2015 August recess, it does not extend to future recess periods. Updating this extension to apply to all congressional recesses would be one way that Congress could fix and strengthen INARA