Former President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, but now that President Joe Biden is in office, indirect talks have resumed with Iran to try to hammer out a new deal with the Islamic Republic.
Today, the other world powers that were party to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran meet in Vienna to resume talks about restoring the nuclear pact, according to Al Jazeera. Representatives from China, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany will all be present.
Iran still refuses to be in direct discussion with the U.S. since it abandoned the deal in 2018, so messages will be relayed to American representatives.
But over the weekend, Iran was making incendiary comments about Israel, which worry the Western powers.
Iranian Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, the spokesman for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s armed forces, openly urged for the annihilation of Israel.
“We will not back off from the annihilation of Israel, even one millimeter. We want to destroy Zionism in the world,” Shekarchi told the Iranian Students News Agency, the Jerusalem Post reported.
“We will not back off from the annihilation of Israel, even one millimeter. We want to destroy Zionism in the world,” said Brig.-Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, spokesman for the Islamic Republic of Iran armed forces.https://t.co/xEOmekcBmF
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) November 28, 2021
This is not his first anti-Israeli comment. Shekarchi had also previously said that Iran could “level Haifa and Tel Aviv in the shortest possible time.”
He has also been particularly critical of the Arab states that have opened up relationships with Israel.
In 2020, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain joined the Abraham Accords to normalize ties with Israel, a historically monumental decision in Middle Eastern politics. Even the Gulf power Saudi Arabia has considered trying to create a relationship with Israel.
But these relationships angered Iran, and Shekarchi called the relations “intolerable.”
“Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and other countries considered as Muslims, for us they part of the Zionist regime, and this is very important,” Shekarchi said, according to the Post.
So as nuclear talks resume again today, these incendiary comments have put representatives on edge.
Though six rounds of these indirect talks have already been held between April and June, the hard line that the Islamic Republic is taking ahead of the nuclear talks could make the discussion and negotiations more difficult, France 24 News reported.
Besides promoting the annihilation of Israel, Iran has also been openly critical of the West and is sticking to demands that some diplomats are calling unrealistic.
The Islamic Republic’s representatives have been insisting that all the U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed since 2017 must be be dropped, France 24 News reported.
In fact, the representatives have communicated to the Western powers that they want these talks to focus more on sanction issues than on nuclear negotiations. Iran continues to insist that it is not making nuclear weapons.
“Iran maintains it is not seeking a nuclear weapon, but Western powers question the expansion of the country’s nuclear programme over the past two years, which has seen it enrich uranium up to 60 percent and deploy advanced centrifuges,” Al Jazeera reported.
Iran’s main nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, has also been highly critical of the U.S. over nuclear issues and the 2015 deal.
“To ensure any forthcoming agreement is ironclad, the West needs to pay a price for having failed to uphold its part of the bargain. As in any business, a deal is a deal, and breaking it has consequences,” Kani wrote in a column for the Financial Times.
“The principle of ‘mutual compliance’ cannot form a proper base for negotiations since it was the U.S. government which unilaterally left the deal,” Kani added.
So as talks begin again today between Iran and other Western powers, many are skeptical of how productive it will actually be after the Islamic Republic has taken such public and hard line positions.
“There’s a deep and very legitimate concern that the Iranians are going to posture and want to start from scratch or go back to their lecturing, and the Americans and Europeans are not up for that,” said Sanam Vakil, an Iran expert at Chatham House, according to the Financial Times.
“They see any of that as a delaying strategy where Iran would continue to accelerate its programme in tandem with the farce of negotiations which are not really going to go anywhere.”
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