With Vienna talks on Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal resuming November 29, government newspaper Iran Daily has outlined Tehran’s tougher new position in five points.
Tehran's five demands represent an almost maximalist negotiating position that if it upholds could easily lead to a deadlock. Following each point in bold italics, Iran International presents a counter-point.
First, Iran not only will not allow any discussion on its missile program and regional conduct, but it will also refuse to have any negotiation over nuclear issues. “Iran will not enter into nuclear discussions, and it will thus block the West from tabling new issues,” the paper said.
Iran has stockpiled 113.8 kg of 20-percent and 17.7 kg of 60-percent enriched uranium, and it has deployed advanced centrifuges capable of much faster purification of the fissile material. It has gained knowledge and expertise it did not possess in 2015 when JCPOA went into effect. Without discussing such issues, talks cannot succeed.
Second, the United States as the party violating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, the 2015 nuclear deal), is in the seat of the accused and it is not even a participant in the Vienna talks, Iran Daily said. The US government should express regret over its past mistakes and pay damages to Iran and try to regain trust. The US has not taken these steps and even President Joe Biden by renewing the US National Emergency with Respect to Iran has shown its lack of interest in rebuilding trust.
Biden administration officials, who will be present in Vienna and part of the process indirectly, have already said that while former president Donald Trump’s decision to leave the 2015 nuclear deal was wrong, it would be politically unsustainable for the new administration to make a formal statement and pay damages to Iran.
Third, as part of its confidence-building measures the United States should refrain from categorizing sanctions and should lift all sanctions imposed during former presidents Donald Trump and Barrack Obama that violated the JCPOA.
Some US sanctions relate to Iran’s nuclear program. Others are related to terrorism, money laundering, illegal arms transfers, and human rights. The US has said it is ready to lift oil and banking sanctions related to the nuclear issues, but that it would be politically untenable for the administration to lift all sanctions. While clear in many cases, what does and doesn’t violate the JCPOA is in some cases part of the talks.
Fourth, removing sanctions needs verification over time. Since Iran sustained damages with US withdrawal from JCPOA and reimposition of sanctions, it should have sufficient time to verify that it can sell its oil and repatriate the proceeds. Iran is ready to accept the role of a neutral group in verification.
While Iran is demanding verification on sanctions removal, it says it is not willing to discuss any nuclear issue. The West is interested in securing effective verification of Iran’s nuclear program and in holding talks for the post-JCPOA era, when Iran will be largely unrestricted in its nuclear capabilities.
Fifth, Iran demands guarantees that the US will not again withdraw from the JCPOA. Once the US returns to the agreement, it could as a JCPOA participant use the agreement’s ‘trigger mechanism’ in a more “mischievous way” against Iran.
Biden cannot under the US constitution guarantee that a future administration might not leave the JCPOA, which is an agreement and not a ‘binding’ treaty. A treaty would require a two-thirds majority in the US Senate, and would be unlikely in the case of the JCPOA, although perhaps possible if linked to restrictions in Iran’s missile program and regional role, which Tehran has ruled out.