Iranian nuclear negotiations threatened with stalemate

The Europeans hoped to negotiate relentlessly during the holiday season to try to make up for lost time. They had to agree, Friday, December 17, in Vienna, to take a new break in the indirect negotiations between Iran and the United States in order to save the nuclear agreement. This objective, set up as a priority by US President Joe Biden, three years after Donald Trump denounced the initial compromise, has been made very uncertain by the arrival at the Iranian presidency of the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raïssi this summer. After five months of suspension due to elections in Iran, the discussions were relaunched on November 29 in the prestigious setting of the Coburg Palace, in the heart of the Austrian capital, where the agreement was signed in 2015.

This interruption – the second in three weeks – illustrates the risk of stalling the talks. The first break, on December 3, had been requested by the West to force Iran to moderate its positions. The Iranian delegation had indeed arrived in Vienna with radical demands, deemed unacceptable by Washington: the end of all the sanctions in force, adopted at the initiative of the Trump administration in the hope of burying the agreement definitively. , and guarantees supposed to prevent the United States from breaking again a possible renegotiated treaty.

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By the way, anxious to show his firmness, the Iranian negotiator Ali Bagheri refused to resume negotiations where they had been stopped in June, following exchanges considered rather fruitful between the Biden administration and the outgoing Iranian power. On the contrary, the new team of negotiators had even formulated a whole series of demands amounting to contesting more or less 90% of the texts on the table.

Give and take

The new truce responds this time to a wish of the Iranians, but it surprised European negotiators, who called it“Disappointing interruption”. “Some technical progress” had indeed been carried out in the last twenty-four hours, they said on Friday. After long explanations, the Iranians had finally accepted a document presented as a “basis for discussion”, thus abandoning part of their demands.

This step should now allow us to concentrate as quickly as possible on the main issues, in a give-and-take that remains to be translated into precise commitments: the gradual lifting of American sanctions, likely to support the economy, against the end of the Iranian nuclear program. However, it has made considerable progress in three years, according to Westerners, since Tehran took its freedoms with its original commitments. The Iranians produce worryingly high quantities of enriched uranium and have modern centrifuges. One of the thorniest questions is what to do with the stockpiles of fissile material and the equipment that Iran has put in place in recent years with a view to a new deal.

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Iranian nuclear negotiations threatened with stalemate

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