EU-sponsored Iran nuclear talks end, again, with no agreement
WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – The European Union (EU)—sponsored a second round of a “last ditch” effort at negotiations to revive the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which US president Donald Trump left in 2018.
US officials have repeatedly said that they are prepared to accept the EU’s text. But Iran is not. In the latest round of talks, it dropped two previous conditions for agreeing to a revival of the JCPOA.
But it introduced a third condition—which is not acceptable to the US or even the EU.
The driving force behind continuing the talks is Josep Borrell. Borrell is a former Spanish Foreign Minister, and he comes from the left-leaning Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party. Why an unelected official has so much authority is unclear—but in their last meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hailed Borrell as “my friend and partner.”
It may well be that the Biden administration, in its passion for multilateral diplomacy, has allowed itself to be drawn into a diplomatic venture that is repeatedly failing, even as it is contrary to the interests of the US and its allies.
Or it may be that the Biden administration lacks a “Plan B.” It has no other way to deal with this problem, so it lets the EU-mediated talks drag on.
Failure of Borrell’s Latest Effort
On Tuesday, Borrell’s spokesman, Peter Stano, asserted to journalists that the time had come for making a decision on the JCPOA. But he gave no deadline for that,
“We have a final text,” he said. “So it’s the moment for a decision: yes or no. And we expect all participants to take this decision very quickly.”
Stano may have been responding to the remarks of Iran’s Foreign Minister the night before. In a phone conversation with Borrell, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told him that Tehran still had reservations about the deal, blaming the US for the lack of an agreement.
Amir-Abdollahian “emphasized that an ultimate agreement” to revive the JCPOA must “ensure the sustainable and effective removal of sanctions against Iran,” Tasnim News Agency, which is linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reported on Tuesday.
Real Obstacle: Iran’s New Demand—International Atomic Energy Agency Must End Inquiries
In the last round, Tehran dropped its two previous objections to the EU’s proposal for renewing the JCPOA. However, it introduced a new condition: it wants the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to drop its inquiries into Tehran’s efforts to hide aspects of its nuclear program.
Yet, as The New York Times explained in a story published late on Tuesday, the IAEA is not a signatory to the JCPOA, and it was not involved in the negotiations.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory, along with 190 other countries, is entirely separate and distinct from the JCPOA. Compliance with the NPT is monitored by the IAEA.
The NPT requires countries to report where they have produced nuclear materials as Andrea Stricker, Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program Deputy Director, and Anthony Ruggiero, Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program Senior Director, at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explained.
Iran has “failed to answer the IAEA’s questions about the presence of man-made uranium particles the agency found in 2019 and 2020 at three Iranian sites,” they wrote, and it “has not answered inspectors’ questions about a fourth site.”
Those Iranian failures prompted censure from the IAEA’s Board of Governors last June.
The IAEA identified the suspect Iranian sites on the basis of “information uncovered in 2018,” the Times explained, when Israel “stole thousands of documents and CDs about Iran’s nuclear program from a Tehran warehouse.”
Of course, if Iran is not interested in pursuing a nuclear program, why did it retain and store such material?
Most recently, Iran has made the end of the IAEA’s inquiries a condition for returning to the JCPOA.
Yet that is not a demand that either the US or the EU can accept. So it would seem that, once again, the EU’s effort to revive the JCPOA is stymied.
Indeed, that is the dominant view in Israel. “Political sources in Jerusalem” dismissed the optimism of Borrell and other European officials as “artificial” and “aimed toward pressuring the Iranians in the direction of a decision,” Ynet News reported. “But the Iranians are not interested,” it concluded, as the new agreement is not substantially different from the previous text.
The Times of Israel reached a similar conclusion. It cited the right-leaning Ynet News, as well as the left-leaning Haaretz, which quoted an unnamed source as saying much the same: “there’s no strategic change for the Iranians” and “it will be very difficult for them to accept a deal that is not a significant improvement on the original accord,”