Iran faces closer Europe-US coop. under Biden in Vienna talks

TEHRAN, Nov. 09 (MNA) – Referring to Europe's weakness to go against US sanctions, Prof. Hunter says that the fact that Biden has been trying to restore transatlantic cooperation, would make it even more difficult for Europe to go against the US.

The new top Iranian negotiator Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani said last Wednesday that he had reached an agreement with the EU negotiator Enrique Mora to start the Vienna talks on November 29 a five-month halt amid the change in government in Iran. 

Prior to Iran’s announcement of the date on Wednesday both Iran and the United States had retched up warnings and were flexing their muscles which affected diplomatic efforts. Anyway, now that the date is announced, the parties still appear to be highlighting their leverage before the talks begin.

Accordingly, Western powers are waging psychological warfare on different fronts including Insistence on “military option is still on the table”, highlighting using the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as leverage and smart sanctions.

It is quite well expected that Western powers will continue to adopt their forward-looking policies with the certain assumption that the talks will begin on November 29, some examples of which are as follows:

1. Republican leaders in the US Congress have said that Iran should consider any agreement with the Biden administration dead from the very start.

2. France has sought to highlight the IAEA leverage, claiming that they have the power to pass a resolution against Iran at the upcoming Board of Governors meeting.

3. US diplomats have said they want talks to start from where the sixth round of Vienna talks ended in June.

While observers predict no results in the negotiations in the near future, the agreement of the parties to start the talks would signal a joint effort to handle the situation.

One has to be careful that the Americans' insistence on starting negotiations from where the last round of Vienna talks ended shows that they are concerned about the new negotiating stances of the new administration in Iran, as the Americans see the results of the last six rounds of the Vienna talks as in their own favor.

To shed light on the issue, we reached out to Shireen Tahmaasb Hunter, Professor of Political Science at Georgetown University in the US. 

Here is the full text of the interview:

Iran and other sides to the JCPOA have agreed to resume Vienna talks on 29 Nov. How do you assess this?

The fact that Iran has agreed to return to talks in Vienna is a positive step. However, the success of talks would depend on many other factors, especially the willingness of both the US and Iran to make concessions.

Iran has announced that it will only continue result-oriented negotiations and is not going to continue talks for talks. Why the US has resorted to the talk-for-talk tactic till now? Basically, is the US serious about returning to the JCPOA?

Clearly, talks for the sake of talks are not productive. Any negotiation must yield results. The problem is that the results Iran expects and those that the US has in mind are different. Unless there is some narrowing of their differences, the expectation of success would be unjustified.

Biden administration says it is not going to guarantee that the US will not withdraw from the possible future agreement like what Trump did. And even some in Washington are threatening to kill any agreement that Biden may reach. How do you assess the US stance and its effect on the talks’ process?  Why should Iran be optimistic about such a possible agreement if the US is going to behave irresponsibly again?

The problem with guarantees is that the Biden administration cannot bind the future administrations to its decisions. Even if Biden agreed to give guarantees to Iran for the duration of his administration, a future administration could refuse to abide by it. Clearly, if Iran insists on guarantees, the chances of reaching any agreement would greatly diminish. Given Iran's past experience, Iran's desire for guarantees is understandable. But it is not practical. The only way Iran could be sure sanctions will be fully and permanently lifted is to resolve other differences and difficulties with the US.

Under such fragile circumstances threatening any possible agreement, how constructive role can Europe play? Basically, is Europe independent enough to be able to play a constructive role in securing any possible agreement? Or it will behave inactively as it did after Trump's withdrawal?

As Iran's experience during the Trump administration demonstrated, the Europeans by themselves cannot do much to ease Iran's problems. They will never go against US sanctions because of the seriously negative impact that such action would have on their own economic and strategic interests. The fact that Biden has been trying to restore transatlantic cooperation, would make it even more difficult for the Europeans to go against the US. Moreover, many Europeans share the US perspective on Iran. In short, if Iran wants sanctions relief, it has to deal with Washington.

Interview by Zahra Mirzafarjouyan

News Code 180547


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