More than two weeks after Iran’s nuclear talks in Vienna came to a halt, Tehran sounds more optimistic about the eventual outcome than the Biden Administration.
A senior advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader said on Sunday that a nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers was imminent but could only happen if the United States showed political will.
"Yes, it's imminent. It depends on the political view of the United States," Kamal Kharrazi said at the Doha Forum international conference.
Kharrazi said it was vital for Washington to remove the foreign terrorist organization (FTO) designation against its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
"IRGC is a national army and a national army being listed as a terrorist group certainly is not acceptable," he said.
The Biden Administration has hesitated over the issue, possibly because of its domestic backlash. If the administration takes such a step and days or weeks later the IRGC or its militant proxies in the region attack a country, President Joe Biden will be held responsible and blamed for being soft on Iran and miscalculating Tehran's intentions.
There are plenty of recent examples of Iranian aggressions. The IRGC lobbed 12 ballistic missiles at Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan this month claiming it targeted a secret Israeli base there. Houthi rebels armed and trained by IRGC attacked Saudi oil installations on Friday causing large fires.
Removing the biggest cross-border military, intelligence group controlling dozens of militant groups in the region from a terror list does not guarantee they will change their behavior. On the contrary, critics say such a move will embolden them.
Already, bipartisan opposition is growing against the Vienna talks, especially any notion of removing the IRGC from the US terrorist designation.
After 11 months of negotiations with Iran, the Biden Administration now finds itself caught between the hammer and the anvil and has become more cautious about the possible outcome of the talks.
US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley attending the Doha conference said that he is not confident a nuclear deal between Western powers and Iran is imminent.
"The sooner we get back into the deal, which is in our interest, and presumably Iran's interest, the more faithfully we implement it, and the more we can build on it to address the other issues between us and Iran and between Iran and the region," Malley said on Sunday.
He also made clear that the United States is negotiating to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, and this is not “intending to address other issues” like Iran’s regional policy and other sanctions – a possible reference to Tehran’s demand over IRGC’s terror sanctions.
When former president Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, his administration imposed nearly 1,500 sanctions until the very end of his presidency. The most painful economic sanctions are related to Iran’s nuclear program and will be lifted if the agreement is revived. But the US has consistently said terrorism, human rights and other sanctions will not be lifted. Iran, on the other hand, has always demanded the removal of all sanctions.
The US hopes to use the remainder to negotiate with Tehran over its aggressive regional policies and ballistic missile program. However, critics have been saying that once Iran is free of the major economic sanctions, it would have little incentive to moderate its behavior or make concession over the missile issue.