The political deputy in Iran’s presidential office wrote Wednesday that the United States had tempted previous president Hassan Rouhani by offering to delist the IRGC.

Mohammad Jamshidi tweeted that Washington believed the offer to remove the Guards (IRGC) from its list of ‘foreign terrorist organizations’ might draw Rouhani into talks over “regional issues” and Iran’s missile program. The centrist Rouhani left office in August 2021, succeeded by President Ebrahim Raisi, many of whose supporters are critics or opponents of the 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

With the US and Iran inching closer together in talks to revive the JCPOA, Raisi may want to project any agreement as more favorable than anything Rouhani would have achieved.

In a briefing in Tehran last week, the outlines of which reached Iran International, Ali Bagheri Kani, Iran’s lead negotiator in nuclear talks, said Iran had rejected a US demand that Iran enter talks over its missile program and regional alliances.

‘Follow on’ talks?

The administration of President Joe Biden, while accepting the original logic of the JCPOA in detaching Iran’s nuclear program from other matters, has said it wants ‘follow on’ deal covering Iran’s missile development and links with groups the US deems ‘terrorists.’ As a candidate running against President Donald Trump, who left the JCPOA in 2018, Biden wrote an op-ed for CNN in 2020 saying the US would under his presidency rejoin the JCPOA “as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.”

While recent days have brought signs of Iran and the US bridging gaps over reviving the JCPOA, the greatest remaining challenge may be agreeing a way forward over the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) probe into unexplained uranium traces found in Iran by inspectors.

Mohammad Marandi, who has acted as a spokesman-cum-advisor for Iranian negotiators, tweeted Wednesday that “no deal will be implemented” unless the IAEA board of governors “permanently” closed these enquiries.

The US, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom in June successfully moved a resolution at the 35-member IAEA board criticizing Iran’s failure to satisfy the agency over the uranium traces, which relate to work carried out before 2003. The US and ‘E3’ argue, as does the IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi, that the issue relates to Iran’s ‘safeguards’ commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is separate from the JCPOA talks.

US: ‘Doing our homework’

Leading Iranian officials, including Raisi, have argued that Iran expects the probe to be dropped as part of restoring the JCPOA. They claim a precedent in the IAEA’s ‘final’ report on Iran’s pre-2003 nuclear work issued in December 2015, some months after the JCPOA was signed.

Marandi in his tweet also suggested he had said for “months” that Iran did not see IRGC delisting as a precondition for success in the talks. It was widely reported in June that Tehran had dropped the demand, which had apparently been raised on the grounds that the Trump administration had listed the IRGC as part of ‘maximum pressure’ after withdrawing the US from the JCPOA in 2018.

A US National Security Council spokesman said Monday that Washington, having received August 15 Iran’s response to European Union proposals on JCPOA revival, circulated August 8, was “currently doing our homework and will respond at an appropriate time and after our internal process is complete.” The spokesman said Washington was encouraged that “Iran appears to have dropped some of its non-starter demands, such as lifting the FTO designation of the IRGC.”

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