The United States and Iran on Tuesday are kicking off indirect talks through intermediaries officials in Vienna to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, marking a step forward in efforts to bring both sides back into compliance with the accord.
Washington announced last Friday that all current parties of the 2015 deal would gather to establish two working groups with a goal to produce a road map to get both the U.S. and Iran to synchronizing return into compliance. One of the parallel meetings will focus on the U.S. to lift sanctions imposed on Iran by former President Donald Trump while the other deals with how to get Iran to comply with the previous terms of the 2015 accord and roll back its resumed accelerated nuclear activity.
Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran deal in 2018, saying it didn’t go far enough to curb Iran’s ballistic missile program and its support for terror proxies groups in the region. A year later, Iran began resuming its production of enriching uranium, violating the enrichment limits of the 2015 agreements by yielding six times the limits of highly enriched uranium — enough to assemble a nuclear weapon within the next few months.
Diplomats from parties of the 2015 agreements including Russia, China, France, Germany, and Britain are currently beginning their efforts in meeting with Iran negotiators separately. Abbas Araghchi, Iran deputy foreign minister, who was crucial to negotiating the 2015 deal for Tehran is refusing to meet directly with the United States delegation team led by special envoy Robert Malley. Currently, there are two hotels hosting the parallel meeting with E3 (France, Germany, and UK) Russia, and China intermediaries undertaking shuttle diplomacy between the Iranian and American delegations.
“There’s unity and ambition for a joint diplomatic process,” Enrique Mora, the deputy head of the European Union’s diplomatic service, posted on Twitter providing updates on Tuesday’s meeting. “As Coordinator I will intensify separate contacts here in Vienna with all relevant parties, including US.”
President Biden has vowed to bring the United States back into the deal, making it clear before he took office that he intends to aim for a “longer and stronger” comprehensive agreement. The U.S. first offered to meet the Iranians in February, but weeks of outreach through European allies have been rejected by the Iranian government. Instead, Iran President Hassan Rouhani is calling for the U.S. to make the first move in order for Tehran to return to compliance with its commitments of the pact, demanding the Biden administration begin lifting the barrage of sanctions imposed by Trump.
“Our demand and condition is that the U.S. first meets all its JCPOA commitments and lifts all the imposed sanctions. Then Iran will verify and return to its commitments,” Araghchi told Iran state television just before his departure to Vienna. “We don’t have any step-by-step plan, nor do we accept one. There is only one step, whereby the U.S. should remove all the sanctions under the Trump tenure. Then we verify and return to our obligation.”
Malley in an interview with PBS last week said regarding the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran that he knew the U.S. was going to have to first “lift those sanctions that are inconsistent with the deal that was reached with Iran… so that Iran enjoys the benefits that it was supposed to enjoy under the deal.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s talks, lawmakers are sounding the alarm about the mixed messages from the Biden administration on restarting negotiations and its eagerness to rejoin the Iran Deal without strengthening it.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) believes it is a huge mistake for Biden to be reversing the course imposed by the Trump-era in lifting the sanctions to an aggressive state sponsor of terrorism and violator of human and religious rights.
“As the E3+2 gather in Vienna, the U.S must not lose sight of the fact that Iran is the world’s premier sponsor of terror, and Russia and China are NOT our friends. We cannot go back to the disastrous Obama-era nuclear deal that did nothing but enable Iran to continue enriching uranium while giving it billions in cold hard cash to fund terror activities. The Trump administration was right to scrap the bad deal, and Iran has done nothing to show that it’s interested in joining the world of civility,” Bilirakis said in a statement to The Floridian.
Another Floridian House member also denounced the meeting, slamming Biden for being silent on rejoining a failed “one-sided” deal.
“Biden’s rather mute position on the Iran Nuclear Deal since taking office is a telling sign that this Administration realizes what the Trump Administration was saying for years, the Iranian regime can not and should never be trusted, and we should not return to the one-sided Iran Nuclear Deal,” Rep. Bryon Donalds told The Floridian. “Any measures to return to this agreement would appease a nation that fuels terror, builds missiles, and endangers American lives. Placating a regime that warrants extreme acts of violence is another grave misstep by President Biden.”