Washington and Tehran have continued talks on the nuclear issue since March and the US has made some concessions, a member of Iran’s team has told Fars news.
“The American position has somewhat changed,” since talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal stopped in Vienna, Mohammad Marandi said in an interview published by the news website close to the Revolutionary Guard on Thursday [July 7].
Marandi, a US-born media advisor to Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, who was in Vienna during many rounds of talks since April 2021 until March this year, argued that “The Europeans and the Americans have high motivation for an agreement as we speak and insist to continue negotiations.”
After 11 months of talks in Vienna all sides were signaling in early March that an agreement was at hand, but suddenly two weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine talks stopped without a positive outcome.
Since then, statements by both sides and by observers have indicated that Iran demands the lifting of all US sanctions imposed since May 2018 when former President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of action or JCPOA and began imposing heavy economic penalties on Tehran.
Among these sanctions, the trickiest are those imposed on the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and its web of companies that are closely intertwined with its financial empire.
The IRGC is Iran’s primary military force, but it is also and intelligence organization and has its extraterritorial unit, the Qods or Quds Force that secretly supplies weapons and money to a host of non-state actors involved in terror activities in the region.
An undated photo showing IRGC top brass at an event, with Qasem Soleimani (L) who was killed by a US drone strike in 2020
Tehran argues that if the IRGC and its companies are not removed from US sanctions list, it will not be able to fully receive the economic benefits of a nuclear agreement. But Washington apparently regards this demand as “extraneous” to JCPOA because these sanctions are not related to Iran’s nuclear program, having been imposed for IRGC’s terror related activities.
Marandi also said that there is a difference in the negotiating positions of the European E3 – the United Kingdom, France and Germany – and the United States. “If the control of the talks were with the Europeans, an agreement would be reached, but the Americans face a lot of domestic opposition to making a deal with Iran, although they also need an agreement.”
Marandi went on to say that President Joe Biden is not popular and his political fortunes in the upcoming Congressional elections in November are not good, while opponents of the JCPOA are very vocal and assertive.
“We should not forget that during the Vienna talks two members of the American negotiating team resigned, because they felt that Iran had received a lot of concessions,” Marandi said, referring to the resignations of Richard Nephew and two other members of the US negotiating team in December over differences with chief negotiator Robert Malley over how far Washington should be willing to go in concessions to Tehran.
Marandi, however, underlined that the US and especially the Europeans need Iran’s oil in the aftermath of the Ukraine invasion.
Asked why some in Iran are criticizing the negotiating team for having failed to make a deal with the West, Marandi said, “One group is influenced by Persian-language broadcasts [from abroad] by Western governments and their allies including the Saudi government and their cyber armies, and another group has political motives.”