The advisor for Iran’s negotiators was reported Thursday saying Tehran had won “many concessions” in talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Mohammad Marandi, who acts as de facto spokesman on the talks, referred both to the four-day round of meetings in Vienna that concluded Monday and to earlier rounds. “Iran was able to make significant progress in all fields, which of course will be announced in due course,” Marandi told the Young Journalists Club, a state-owned news agency.
Marandi claimed western journalist had told him that “many government elites of Western countries, as well as Persian-language media people based abroad” also regarded the talks as a success for Iran.
The Vienna talks – largely indirect contacts between the United States and Iran mediated by the European Union – ended with senior EU official Enrique Mora circulating a document designed to bridge remaining gaps. While the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called this a “final text,” Iranian officials treated it as a set of proposals needing further review.
Awaiting ‘high-level meeting’
Nour News, affiliated to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, reported late Wednesday that the text was being analyzed “at the experts’ level,” but had not yet been discussed by a “high-level meeting.” The SNSC, made up of 24 of Iran’s leading politicians and military commanders, shapes policy on the nuclear issue, although crucial decisions may come in informal discussions around Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Rafael Grossi of IAEA (L) meeting Iran's nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami in Tehran on March 5, 2022
The nuclear talks, beginning in April 2021 in an effort to revive the 2015 agreement (the JCPOA), have wrestled with intertwined political and technical issues – essentially over which US sanctions introduced after Washington left the JCPOA in 2018 contravene the 2015 agreement and how Iran’s atomic program, expanded since 2019, should be returned to JCPOA limits.
Marandi reiterated that Tehran expects the dropping of “false accusations against Iran in the agency,” a reference to enquiries by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into Iranian nuclear work before 2003. The US and three European JCPOA signatories argue these enquiries arise under Tehran’s basic obligations as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and have nothing to do with renewing the JCPOA.
Iran, on the other hand, argues that the IAEA concluded investigations into Iran’s past nuclear work in 2015, the year the JCPOA was agreed, and revived them only after allegations made by Israel in 2018, the year the US left the JCPOA.
“Let's not forget that before the previous meeting of the Board of Governors [in June, which passed a resolution critical of Iran], the head of the agency, [Rafael Mariano] Grossi, travelled to Israel,” Marandi said.
Iran had promised earlier this year to provide satisfactory answers to the IAEA regarding questions around its past secret nuclear work, but in late May the agency said it had not received convincing explanations.
In remarks published Thursday on the Rouydad news website, Hossein Maliki, of the Iranian parliament’s security and foreign policy committee, warned that negotiations could be facing a “dead end…because we see less flexibility in the Americans.”
Maliki said he had not seen the Mora text, but his guarded comments – noting Iran’s “positive opinion” on “some provisions” of a “previous text”, an apparent reference to a document circulated by Borrell in late July – suggested he was hedging while long-term JCPOA opponents argued the talks had failed.
The official news agency IRNA reported that Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in a telephone conversation with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, expressed hope that “the American side, with a realistic and pragmatic view…will provide the ground for an agreement on the final text.”