Iran Nuclear Negotiations To Continue—But Many Disrupting Factors Remain

August 11, 2021 Topic: Iran Region: Middle East Blog Brand: Middle East Watch Tags: IranNuclearNegotiationsEbrahim RaisiJPCOA

Iran Nuclear Negotiations To Continue—But Many Disrupting Factors Remain

It is unclear who will lead the nuclear negotiations on the Iranian side. Previous nuclear negotiators have included Rouhani and Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, who was instrumental in the passage of the original JCPOA. 

In his inaugural address, Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, indicated that his administration was prepared to resume nuclear negotiations in Vienna with the P5+1 nations, including the United States. The previous round of talks had adjourned in late June without reaching an agreement, and a date to resume was not specified. Early predictions suggested an August start date, but an unnamed official representing the European Union, which observes the Vienna negotiations, indicated to Agence France-Presse that the talks were likely to resume in September. 

The Biden administration has indicated that it views the Vienna negotiations as an “urgent priority,” reflecting its desire to quickly return Iran to compliance with the JCPOA following Joe Biden’s inauguration. Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in 2018 and imposed sanctions on the country; although Iran remained in the deal, in concert with the remaining powers in the P5+1, it gradually ceased its commitment to the agreement as tensions between the United States and the Islamic Republic increased across the region. 

Biden’s prior efforts to quickly negotiate with Raisi’s predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, before Raisi entered office were not successful. However, in his campaign, Raisi indicated that he would pursue a return to the JCPOA as a means of relieving international sanctions against the country. Raisi argued that the United States was obliged to drop all Trump-era sanctions before Iran would reduce its uranium enrichment capacity, a demand that the Biden administration has rejected. 

Other areas of uncertainty remain. It is unclear who will lead the nuclear negotiations on the Iranian side. Previous nuclear negotiators have included Rouhani and Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, who was instrumental in the passage of the original JCPOA. 

On the American side, an issue of contention has been the recent incidents involving oil tankers in the Persian Gulf—including last week’s hijacking of the Asphalt Princess off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanded accountability for the incident, whose perpetrators were allegedly supported by Iran. The incident adheres to a wider pattern of recent attacks, including a drone attack on the Mercer Street tanker which killed two crewmembers and was later traced to Iran. 

A final wild card is the actions of Israel, which could disrupt the talks by conducting a sabotage event or assassination within Iran to delay its nuclear ambitions—events that have historically strained relations between Iran and the United States and made negotiations harder to continue. 

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest. 

Image: Reuters