Biden administration officials said on Monday that they were “encouraged” by Iranian negotiators’ willingness to drop several of their demands in the ongoing nuclear negotiations in Vienna, claiming that the U.S. government would use the opportunity to “quickly” finalize a prospective agreement with Tehran.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price made the announcement on Monday, claiming during a press briefing that the United States had reacted positively to Iran’s willingness to drop several of its demands—agreed to in response to a European Union-led nuclear proposal aimed at resurrecting the stalled negotiations—but had not yet formalized its own response.
Among other new positions, Iran agreed not to demand the removal of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the branch of the Iranian military responsible for securing the government’s clerical character, from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. This demand became a major sticking point after President Joe Biden publicly refused to grant it, indicating that he would rather see the deal fail than remove the IRGC from the list.
Price characterized the IRGC’s delisting as a “non-starter” for the United States, and indicated that State Department officials were “encouraged by the fact that Iran appear[ed] to have dropped” the issue. “But … there are still some outstanding issues that must be resolved, some gaps that must be bridged if we are able to get there,” the spokesman said.
Negotiations between Iran and the “P5+1”—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, each signatories of the original nuclear agreement in 2015—have been ongoing since 2021, but have repeatedly stalled due to both sides’ reluctance to grant concessions and due to unrelated political issues. The intent of the negotiations has been to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal signed between Iran and the P5+1 in 2015 that provided Tehran with substantial sanctions relief in exchange for its agreement to cease uranium enrichment and export its existing stockpile of highly-enriched uranium to Russia.
Although many American conservatives claimed at the time that the deal was not sufficiently harsh on Iran and left it a pathway to resume enrichment after the deal’s expiration, international inspectors certified that Tehran abided by the deal from 2015 until 2018, when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States and imposed sanctions on Iran as part of his “maximum pressure” policy. Iran initially attempted to remain within the deal with the other P5+1 members, but it ceased compliance altogether after the assassination of IRGC chief Qassem Soleimani in early 2020, and it is now thought to possess enough highly-enriched uranium to construct a nuclear device.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.