US faces diminishing range of choices in Vienna

TEHRAN, Nov. 29 (MNA) – After long months of patience, diplomats from Iran and world powers will reconvene in Vienna again on Monday to redress the situation resulting from the 2018 US withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear agreement.

The agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was thought to be rendered moot by the dint of former US President Donald Trump. But the US dire need for an agreement with Iran and its diminishing space of options led the Biden administration to lick its wounds and seek a return to the tattered deal.

The problem, however, lies with the Biden administration’s renewed efforts to rewrite the recent history of the JCPOA and achieve a return to the deal without addressing the underlying reasons that created the current situation in the first place. 

It goes without saying that the current state of play between Iran and the West is the direct result of the previous US administration’s ill-fated withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal while Iran was in full compliance with its strict terms. 

Iran waited for a full year after Trump’s jettisoning of the deal in the hope that the European parties to it would fulfill their commitments. But since they failed to honor their commitments, Tehran gradually started its remedial measures that resulted in further development of Iran’s peaceful nuclear program. 

Now, two years later, Washington and its European allies are complaining that Iran’s nuclear program has made “permanent” progress on nuclear development.

In a recent joint statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UK, France and Germany – collectively known as the E3 – complained about Iran “permanently and irreversibly upgrading its nuclear capabilities.”

“Iran’s R&D on, and extensive use of, advanced centrifuges have permanently improved its enrichment capabilities,” the joint statement said. 

The wording of the statement put the blame on Iran for this progress as if Iran withdrew from the JCPOA first. In fact, Iran, quite, on the contrary, is still honoring the key commitments it made in the JCPOA. 

At any rate, the US now faces a problem of its own making. It quit the deal and it’s up to it to make up for its fault. Judging from American and European statements on the JCPOA, time doesn’t seem on the US side.
On the contrary, Iran seems to be patient and in no rush to make a deal at any cost. 

Overall, two options have been floated as diplomats from Iran and its negotiating partners descended on Vienna on Monday. Frist, reviving the original deal. Second, hammering out an interim agreement. The Americans, going into the Vienna talks, raised the issue of hashing out the interim agreement if reviving the JCPOA was to fail. But Iran doesn’t seem to be open to such a deal given the US track record in reneging on its long-term obligations, let alone interim ones. 

Thus, the only viable option for the US is to revive the original pact and redress its past blunder in abandoning the deal. Of course, this needs to be done in a new spirit. Iran’s chief negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, outlined the requirements of this spirit. In an opinion piece for the Financial Times, he wrote, “In order to secure the rights and interests of our nation, we are ready for a fair and careful discussion, based on the principles of ‘guarantee’ and ‘verification’. This must prioritize compensation for the violation of the deal, which includes the removal of all post-JCPOA sanctions. In return, Iran is ready to voluntarily fulfill its nuclear commitments in accordance with the agreement.”

Nour News, a news website close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, also echoed the same agenda. It summed up the agenda as follows: “Effective and verifiable lifting of all sanctions, along with a guarantee that the past situation will not be repeated in exchange for Iran’s implementation of the remaining, time-framed commitments under the JCPOA.”

First published in Tehran Times

News Code 181215


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