The negotiators on the Iranian nuclear return to the negotiating table in Vienna in a fourth round without it being possible to definitively predict its outcome. The third round ended with the impact of evaluations in which optimism was mixed with apprehension and caution, and for all its reasons.
In this article, we summarize the course of these negotiations, the results they have achieved, the difficulties they face, and the reasons for optimism and apprehension surrounding them. Read also Not just talks … 10 rules for the art of diplomacy in negotiations between Iran and the major powers in Vienna Vienna negotiations .. Will they succeed in solving the Iranian nuclear deal crisis?After leaking a recording of Jawad Zarif, success or failure, the fate of the Vienna talks?The nuclear file .. Vienna talks enter the stage of details, and Iranian officials do not rule out a temporary agreement
- What is negotiated?
In 2015, an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue was reached between Iran and the major powers, and it was signed by the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and Iran.
This agreement provides for subjecting Iran’s nuclear program to the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency in order to ensure its safety, and to prevent its transformation into a military program that allows the manufacture of a nuclear bomb, and it included the most important provisions of this agreement; Iran’s commitment not to enrich uranium with a purity of more than 3.67% for a period of 15 years, and not to exceed its stock of uranium during this period only 300 kilograms, and to enrichment only in the Natanz reactor and not in the Fordow reactor, which was built underground and fortified against attacks, and to open its nuclear reactors for inspection. Sudaiy to the experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In return, US and European sanctions on Iran will be lifted, with a pledge by Washington and the European Union not to impose any new sanctions.
With the arrival of US President Donald Trump to the presidency, the United States withdrew from the agreement, re-imposed sanctions on Iran, and even added new sanctions related to ballistic missiles, Iran’s activity in the Middle East, human rights and terrorism. The crisis has returned to its first square.
Iran did not exit from the agreement, but it decided to gradually disavow its obligations in the agreement through escalating steps that arrived in January 2021 to enrich uranium with a purity of up to 20% instead of the 3.67% stipulated in the agreement, and the percentage increased after the exposure of the Natanz reactor. For blasting operation to 60%.
The other countries in the agreement fell apart, namely France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia, in addition to the European Union; For trying to “save” the nuclear deal without success. Everyone had to wait for the US elections and Donald Trump to leave the presidency to start serious attempts to save this agreement, and then the Vienna talks were resumed on new grounds this time.https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.455.0_en.html#goog_698077281
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- Where did the negotiations arrive?
Most of the participating parties agree that the negotiations have achieved some progress, but it is not sufficient. The evaluations of the third round differed relatively between those who were optimistic and those who were more cautious and apprehensive.
Washington considered that the negotiations are in an “unclear place,” while European sources summed up the situation by saying, “The agreement is not guaranteed, but it is not impossible.”
As for the Russian position, it came holding the stick in the middle through the phrase “cautious optimism” loved by the Russian representative, Mikhail Ulyanov. While the Iranian assessment came true to a position that combines optimism with a threat, as the chief Iranian negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, explained that it was agreed to lift some “sectoral” sanctions related to ports, banks, international trade and oil, and others related to some personalities and bodies, but he stressed that differences are still continuing, summarizing the Iranian position By saying, “If our demands are met, we will reach an agreement, otherwise there is no agreement.”
- What are the most important points of progress achieved?
By clarifying the various positions prevailing on all parties, the progress achieved can be summarized in the following points:
- All parties concerned with the nuclear agreement agreed to bury the legacy of the previous US administration and the need to revive the nuclear agreement signed in 2015, with differing details.
- Forming 3 committees of experts to work on detailed issues, which are the Sanctions Committee whose mission is to study US sanctions that must be lifted, the Nuclear Issues Committee whose mission is to study the nuclear obligations of each party, and the Executive Cases Committee focuses within its work on issues of verifying the commitment of each party to its obligations, because Tehran says that Her past experience makes her distrust the US administration’s commitments and demands measures to verify its commitments.
- The Nuclear and Sanctions Lifting Committees begin drafting initial drafts for a possible final agreement.
- Initial agreement to lift the sanctions related to the nuclear sanctions (but not others) reimposed by Donald Trump. https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.455.0_en.html#goog_698077283This is a modal window. We are having an unexpected problem, check and try again shortly Error code: MEDIA_ERR_UNKNOWN Session ID: 2021-05-07: f23a350ea1e4ed9e29bc71bc Trigger object ID: vjs_video_3319
- What are the main points of contention?
The main points of contention are the issue of US sanctions that must be lifted, and the Iranian obligations that correspond to them, not to mention other issues that the United States wants to include in the text of the final agreement related to Iranian missile activity, and human rights issues.
US sanctions; The US offer that the Russians conveyed to the Iranians includes 3 lists of sanctions; A list of sanctions that the Americans do not mind lifting, which are those related to the nuclear agreement, and a list of sanctions that the United States wants to maintain, which are related to other issues such as Iranian ballistic missiles or Iran’s influence in the Middle East, which is described in the West as destabilizing in the region, and a third list that is subject to negotiation that the US administration wants Suspended and not raised, with the decision updated every 3 or 6 months
This offer did not satisfy the Iranians, who summarize their position with the following equation: Lifting all the sanctions that former President Donald Trump reimposed after withdrawing from the nuclear agreement without any division or installment in exchange for Tehran’s return to fully adhere to the agreement.
As for the issue of the “first step”, this represents another complicating factor in these negotiations, and it is related to the answer to this question; Who should start with the first step?
Iran raises the slogan “Whoever ignites the crisis must end it and whoever exits first will come first.” As for the United States – along with the Europeans – it says that Iran’s escalatory steps do not help achieving progress, and they demand that it take steps “in the right direction,” as they describe them.
The Chinese and the Russians, for their part, adopt the Iranian position. The Chinese delegate considered the matter to be related to “logic” as he described it, and said that the current Iranian nuclear crisis was caused by the previous Emiri government, which withdrew unilaterally from the JCPOA and exerted heavy pressure on Iran. The United States must first remove all unlawful unilateral sanctions on Iran and third parties.
The Russian delegate did not differ in his position, as he called on the United States to take measures to help alleviate the tension, such as the release of Iranian funds frozen from its oil sales in a number of countries such as South Korea, Japan, and others.
Other contentious issues; The United States wants to include it in any new agreement, and Iran refuses to talk about it, which is related to ballistic missiles, Tehran’s influence, and human rights issues. And the chief Iranian negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, raised what could be described as the three nos in the face of these negotiations; No to the temporary solution that suspends penalties instead of lifting them completely, not to the step-by-step principle that provides for graduation; A move by Iran versus a move by the United States, not to mix files; That is, opening the Iranian nuclear file to other issues due to which the United States imposes sanctions on Iran.https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.455.0_en.html#goog_698077285
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- What are the reasons for optimism?
Between the progress achieved and the difficulties facing these negotiations, one can find reasons for optimism and others for caution and apprehension.
The reasons for optimism can be summarized in the following points:
The desire of all parties to reach an agreement, and for each reason; The Iranians are exhausted by the US sanctions that cling to the artery of the Iranian economy, and they want to reach an agreement as soon as possible, and it would be preferable if this were to be done for the Iranian presidency and government before the next elections, because that would pour into the reformists ’balance.
The Americans, in the era of the new administration, are convinced that an agreement with Iran is better than not. At the time of the Democrats, the agreement was signed in 2015, and they are convinced, along with the Europeans, that the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is through an agreement that subjects Iran to international control, especially since estimates say In the absence of an agreement, Iran will be able to reach the manufacture of the atomic bomb in a period of one to three years.
This is not to mention that the absence of an agreement may lead to a nuclear arms race in the Gulf (we remember Saudi Arabia’s efforts in this direction), and turmoil continues in a geopolitical area important to the rest of the world.
Absence of an alternative to the nuclear deal; As all parties realize that there is no alternative to the agreement. The policy of “maximum pressure” that Donald Trump exercised on Iran has failed to achieve a great result except for the Iranian economy exhausted, which nevertheless seems able to withstand and find outlets outside American control, then the failure of negotiations automatically means Iran will disavow the rest of its obligations, and it has already started enriching uranium by 60%, which is not far from that which allows it to manufacture a nuclear weapon, which is 90%.
The closer Iran is to 90%, the higher the possibility of war in the region, because possessing nuclear weapons represents a red line for all Western countries and Israel.
The mingling of political and economic accounts; Many are looking forward to after the signing of the agreement, the Europeans, the Russians and the Chinese. The lifting of US sanctions means that a large market will open its doors in Tehran, and those who supported Tehran’s position in the difficult years will benefit the most from it.
- What are the causes of apprehension?
But these reasons for optimism do not make reaching an agreement ever foolproof, but rather do not make it within sight, and this is a position on which all parties agree. The reasons for apprehension and caution are many, and labor appears difficult and has not yet resulted in the shape of his child.
- The intertwining and complexity of the file: the US sanctions imposed on Iran consist of about 1,600 penalties, including sectors, bodies and people, some of which are related to the issue of nuclear weapons, while others are related to issues of influence, armament and others. According to diplomatic sources, when President Donald Trump’s administration re-imposed sanctions, it deliberately added new sanctions that were not related to the nuclear agreement and mixed many sanctions to complicate the task of returning to the agreement in the event the Democrats returned to the presidency.
- Lack of trust between the United States and Iran: In addition to the ongoing conflict between the two countries, the experience of the previous agreement leads Iran to be wary of the US position, regardless of the indirect messages it receives from it. In that it raises a question; What if the US administration changed its position after signing the agreement? Or what if another administration comes and breaks what this administration has agreed upon? Therefore, Iran is calling for guarantees or what looks like “penal conditions” in case the agreement is not abided by. There is a big disagreement on this level. On the other hand, the US administration classifies Iran within the list of unreliable countries. Therefore, if it wants to reach an agreement with it, it wants this agreement to ensure tightening the screws as tight as possible on Tehran.
- The internal accounts of each party: There are powerful Republicans in the United States who do not want this agreement to see the light of day. They see it as a concession to Iran that will help it move forward in consolidating its influence in the region. There are conservatives in Iran who do not want this agreement to reach its end, because it includes for them major concessions, and if we take into account the electoral context, the polarization will intensify. Some conservatives believe that reaching an agreement ahead of the presidential elections scheduled for June 18 will be in the interest of the reformists – from the electoral point of view.
- The calculations of external parties that do not increase this agreement to succeed: What is meant by Israel and some Arab countries, and if the concerns of some Gulf countries are not the ones that will dictate the American administration’s direction, the matter is different with regard to Israel, which rejects this agreement and wants – if necessary – a new agreement It includes all issues of armament, influence, and armed groups linked to Iran and others. The Americans did not fully respond to the Israeli demands, but the Israeli influence is clear in slowing down the wheel of negotiations and perhaps hindering them.
In general, one can borrow from European sources saying: “An agreement is not impossible, but it is not guaranteed.”