Iran demanded the U.S. sign a legal pledge that it will not withdraw from the nuclear deal again, accusing Washington of violating its commitments under international law in ousting President Mohammed Khatami and his reformist allies two years ago.
The “the guardian iran nuclear deal” is a story about Iran demanding a legal pledge that the U.S. won’t quit the nuclear deal again.
VIENNA— One of the main barriers to the Biden administration’s efforts to resurrect the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement is Tehran’s demand that the US offer an assurance that it would not exit the treaty and reimpose sanctions, according to officials participating in discussions in Austria.
According to U.S. and European diplomats here, the demand, which is in response to former President Donald Trump’s exit from the 2015 nuclear agreement, seems to be a top political priority for Iran’s new hard-line president’s administration. The officials said they don’t think Iran’s demand is intended to prolong the discussions.
The United States has repeatedly stated that no president may legally bind the hands of a successor without a treaty backed by two-thirds of the Senate. The US has also said that the present discussions should concentrate on maintaining the 2015 agreement rather than seeking additional commitments from both parties.
The dispute over assurances comes despite indications of progress in the Vienna negotiations, which include Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, according to US and European officials. In return for tough but temporary curbs on Iran’s nuclear program, the 2015 agreement lifted most international sanctions against the country.
While Iran claims it is not attempting to produce nuclear weapons, a study at its main sites reveals it may be working on the technology. The Wall Street Journal lays down Tehran’s capabilities as it achieves new uranium enrichment milestones and restricts inspection access. George Downs provided the artwork for this article.
Western officials think a route to an agreement is feasible, expressing greater hope than they did in December, when Iran’s demands threw the talks into disarray. Mid-February is being eyed by US and European officials as the time to determine if diplomacy has run its course.
There has been movement on the small text, including how sanctions would be withdrawn, Iran’s nuclear development will be scaled down, and how an agreement will be implemented over many months.
Western diplomats caution, however, that a number of key political choices on sanctions, nuclear steps, and agreement sequencing must yet be taken, and many are concerned that Tehran will not be ready to make a deal soon enough. Given Iran’s nuclear progress, Western officials have repeatedly cautioned that the time for negotiations is shrinking.
Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian president, wants the United States to officially pledge to never abandoning the 2015 nuclear agreement again.
Photo courtesy of the Iranian Presidency/Zuma Press
“This dialogue is moving much too slowly to achieve an agreement,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said Monday that diplomats in Vienna were making progress, but that important problems remained that “need specific political choices.”
“Washington should make an announcement on the outstanding problems and the easing of sanctions,” he added.
Iran’s worries underscore a critical flaw in the 2015 accord by requiring an unwavering US commitment to a deal. The agreement was never formalized into a treaty with specific legal safeguards. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as its official name suggested, was a series of political promises, although pledges that were subsequently backed up by a United Nations Security Council resolution.
More on the Nuclear Talks with Iran
When discussions to repair the deal began last spring, Iran included a guarantee from the US not to abandon the agreement again on its wish list, along with other demands including compensation for Washington’s 2018 exit. According to Western officials, this was just for show, and Iran would likely tone down its demands.
Tehran did change its attitude last spring, when the previous Iranian leadership said it sought an assurance that Washington would continue in the accord as long as President Biden was in office. President Ebrahim Raisi’s new team has returned to the initial demand for a permanent guarantee.
In recent weeks, Western diplomats have begun to consider Mr. Raisi’s demand for assurances as a critical goal for his negotiators. Mr. Raisi is seen as a prospective successor to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, who has sought assurances.
Keeping Mr. Khamenei from being humiliated by a potential US withdrawal seems to be a priority political aim, according to two Western officials.
“Without guarantees, many in Tehran fear that sanctions relief will be ineffective, unsustainable, and possibly even harmful to the Iranian economy, as the threat of reimposed sanctions looms over long-term planning,” said Ali Vaez, director of Crisis Group’s Iran Project, in a report released Monday.
Washington has begun to react to Iran’s worries in recent months.
Mr. Biden and the presidents of the United Kingdom, France, and Germany published a statement on the margins of the Group of 20 countries meeting in Rome on Nov. 1 that officials believe was aimed to address Iran’s concerns head-on.
“In this spirit,” the leaders wrote, “we appreciate President Biden’s clearly shown resolve to restore the United States to full compliance with the JCPOA and to remain in full compliance as long as Iran does the same.”
The administration of Vice President Joe Biden has said that negotiations should stay focused on preserving the 2015 agreement rather than seeking additional commitments from both parties.
Pool by Ken Cedeno, courtesy of CNP/Zuma Press.
Iran, on the other hand, has disregarded verbal commitments. According to Western officials, one issue is that Iran has requested various sorts of guarantees from Washington at different times—political, economic, and legal assurances. A solution is further complicated by Iran’s refusal to deal directly with the United States.
Officials from the United States and Europe said they are considering options to present to Iran in order to boost trust. Promises of letters of assurance from the US Treasury Department for an agreed-upon list of foreign institutions and firms, or a political commitment to some form of phase-in of future penalties, are among the ideas being considered. However, they would fall short of providing absolute legal protection.
“There are basically options on the table for how economic operators might obtain some comfort if a new American government reimposes sanctions,” a source close to the negotiations said. “In a democratic society, things may change in three years if a new president is elected.” So we’re working on that, but no real magic ideas yet.”
Laurence Norman can be reached at [email protected]
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Iran is demanding that the United States make a legal pledge that it won’t quit the nuclear deal again. The U.S. has not yet made an offer, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said if he does not hear from Trump soon, Iran will start enriching uranium again and might leave the deal altogether. Reference: raisi nuclear deal.
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