US launches blame game as Vienna talks resume

TEHRAN, Nov. 30 (MNA) – After long months of discontinuity, the Vienna talks on how to remove US sanctions on Iran formally kicked in on Monday, with Iran catching Western negotiating partners off guard with a 40-strong team.

The talks began against a backdrop of low expectations in the US and Europe on the possibility of bringing them to a swift conclusion. The several US and European officials expressed concerns over the way Iran would tackle the talks and the possibility that Iran would present new tough demands. 

Over the past few days, American and European officials have leveled many accusations against Iran ranging from pursuing “false expectations” to “playing for time.”

Two European diplomats told Reuters that “it seemed Iran was simply playing for time to accumulate more material and know-how.”

Also, Western diplomats told the British news agency that “if Iran continues with its maximalist positions and fails to restore its cooperation with the IAEA then they will have to quickly review their options.”

This threatening language also was evident in quotations made by anonymous Biden officials speaking to American media. 

A senior Biden administration official told Politico that the US objective in Vienna is to “disabuse Iran’s new negotiators of ‘false expectations’ about what the United States will do to accommodate them.”

This is while Iran has set out its demands in no uncertain ways and is all prepared to achieve a “swift” and “good” agreement. Iran’s chief negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, outlined these demands in an opinion piece for the Financial Times. “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,” he wrote. 

Iran’s demands center on a few issues. First, the US should effectively and verifiably remove all its sanctions on Iran. Second, Washington should provide guarantees that it won’t renege on its commitments again. 

Instead of addressing the root causes of the current situation, American and European officials are spreading pessimism about the outcome of the talks in what appears to be an effort to blame their potential failure on Iran. 

Western diplomats are already moving in this direction. They are portraying Iran’s demand on the need to remove US sanctions as a maximalist one. “If this is the position that Iran continues to hold on Monday, then I don't see a negotiated solution,” one of the European diplomats told Reuters. 

Concurrently, talks of an interim agreement gained ground among Western diplomats, something that Iran rejected out of hand given the US track record in backing down on its commitments.

The American and European complaints about the so-called maximalist demands of Iran marked a quick shift in the West’s negotiating strategy toward Iran. Over the past few months, the US and Europe have been pressing Iran for a return to Vienna. And when Iran set a date for its return, they quickly shifted their focus on Iran’s demands, warning of the failure of the talks in case Iran pursued a hard line.

They cautioned that any Iranian move to pursue maximalist demands would mean that Iran isn’t serious about the talks. This is while Iran has said time and again that it is dead serious about the talks. 

Iran’s seriousness was evident from the relatively large number of its negotiating team. While in previous rounds, Iran sent a small, coherent team, this time it put together a 40-strong team comprised of experts from mainly economic sectors.

This team was another indication that Iran is serious about the talks, unlike the US which sent a relatively small legal and political team. The US team has raised eyebrows in Tehran as it was seen as a sign that the US came to Vienna with the expectation that the talks won’t be concluded during the current round.

In all rounds of nuclear talks, the number of experts on the opposite team was several times that of the Iranian team and included a mix of experts related to sanctions. Now, this time, Iran has decided to use all its capabilities to counter the oppressive sanctions, according to Iran’s state news agency, IRNA. 

Some pundits in Iran and beyond believe that the US desire for reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has largely dissipated and it is now trying to play the blame game by accusing Iran of not being serious and seeking impossible demands.

First published in Tehran Times

News Code 181256

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