Iran Says “Significant Progress” Made in Nuclear Talks

February 22, 2022 Topic: Iran Nuclear Deal Region: Iran Blog Brand: Lebanon Watch Tags: Vienna NegotiationsJCPOAEbrahim RaisiP5+1Donald Trump

Iran Says “Significant Progress” Made in Nuclear Talks

Iran has sought assurances that the United States won't unilaterally withdraw from a deal if a change in political leadership occurs.

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry said negotiations over the status of Tehran’s nuclear weapons program have resulted in “significant progress.” Discussions between the “P5+1” nations, which includes the United States, are being held in Vienna.

However, Saeed Khatibzadeh, the government spokesman, noted that “nothing [would be] agreed until everything is agreed,” leaving room for last-minute complications to derail any prospective agreement between the two sides.

“The remaining issues are the hardest,” Khatibzadeh said during a press conference on Monday.

Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi outlined the broad strokes of any potential agreement between Iran and the P5+1 during his visit to Doha, the capital of Qatar. In remarks with Qatari emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Raisi said that the United States needed to lift several “major sanctions” on Iran before the deal could go into effect.

“To reach an agreement, guarantees are necessary for negotiations and nuclear issues,” Raisi said.

Iranian diplomats have refused to directly engage their American counterparts during talks in Vienna. The Iranians noted that the renewed nuclear issue only came after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” the original agreement between the two sides, at the behest of President Donald Trump in 2018.

In the aftermath of the United States’ withdrawal, Trump’s administration re-imposed “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran. The sanctions damaged Iran’s economy and prompted it to resume its enrichment activities. Today, Iran’s “breakout time,” the time it would take if it set aside security concerns to construct a nuclear weapon, has been estimated at weeks or months.

Against this backdrop, Iran has demanded that the Biden administration provide a guarantee that any potential agreement reached in 2022 would not be violated by the United States after a change in political leadership. Republicans in the House of Representatives made clear Biden could not offer those assurances last week.

In spite of this and other challenges, a draft deal between Iranian and P5+1 negotiators was crafted at the conference. According to Reuters; it includes provisions to restrict Iranian enrichment to 5 percent and ship its centrifuges out of the country in exchange for lifted international sanctions and the release of $7 billion in frozen Iranian assets in South Korea.

Several diplomats, including British foreign secretary Liz Truss, said that the existing framework would be the “last chance for Iran to come to the negotiating table with a serious resolution to this issue.”

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

Image: Reuters.