With European nations playing the role of matchmaker, the delicate diplomatic dance that could re-create the much-maligned nuclear deal with Iran will begin Tuesday in Vienna.
Representatives of the U.S. and Iran are not yet at the level where they can meet in the same room, so the game plan is that each will meet in isolation, with European nations who want to avoid being in the middle of a spat between the two trying to mend fences by acting as go-betweens, according to Axios.
During his years as vice president in the Obama administration, President Joe Biden became the administration’s chief salesman for the 2015 deal domestically and a strong proponent of it as a vehicle for international peace.
“It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement,” Trump said from the White House in May 2018.
Biden campaigned on repairing America’s relationship with Iran and creating a new version of the deal.
The Axios report framed the European nations as the drivers of having the two sides talking to each other by proxy.
“If the Americans are in Vienna at the same time and you want to talk to them, it’s OK with us but we will not meet them,” Axios quoted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi as saying.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that the goal of the indirect talks is to “rapidly finalize sanction-lifting & nuclear measures for choreographed removal of all sanctions, followed by Iran ceasing remedial measures. No Iran-U.S meeting. Unnecessary.”
At virtual JCPOA JC meeting, Iran & EU/E3+2 agreed to resume in-person talks in Vienna next Tues.
Aim: Rapidly finalize sanction-lifting & nuclear measures for choreographed removal of all sanctions, followed by Iran ceasing remedial measures.
No Iran-US meeting. Unnecessary.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) April 2, 2021
The Biden administration was upbeat about the development.
“We obviously welcome this as a positive step, and that’s precisely because we have been clear for weeks now that we are ready to pursue a return to compliance with our JCPOA commitments, consistent with Iran also doing the same,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a Thursday briefing, according to a transcript of the briefing.
Price said the Biden administration has been looking for “the best way to achieve this, including through a series of initial mutual steps. We’ve been looking at options for doing so, including with indirect conversations through our European partners.”
“It’s a positive step, especially if it moves the ball forward on that mutual return to compliance that we’ve talked about for a number of weeks now,” he said.
Not everyone was thrilled.
Two months in, the Biden administration is so desperate to get back to a broken deal that they’re giving up all their leverage and offering concession after humiliating concession.https://t.co/XaYagx9mrP
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) April 2, 2021
🚨 Biden is set to give up the leverage Trump gained on Iran.
Let’s not forget: The Obama-Biden Iran strategy was a disaster—we sent them pallets of cash as they plotted terror attacks against us.
Biden wants to return to that? Scary. https://t.co/YEhOb2r7vl
— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) April 2, 2021
Lifting sanctions on the Iranian regime in order to return to the failed Iran Nuclear Deal is bad policy. Lifting sanctions on the regime to get them to the negotiating table is even worse. https://t.co/7bDaBbB8jJ
— Bryan Steil (@RepBryanSteil) March 31, 2021
“This is a healthy first step forward, and we kind of — we definitely want to underscore that. And obviously, when it comes to issues that are discussed, we’re going to talk about nuclear steps that Iran would need to take in order to return to a compliance with the terms of the JCPOA,” she said.
Porter said that relaxing Trump-imposed sanctions is likely to be on the agenda.
“And we won’t preview any specific sanctions, but we’ll definitely say that sanction relief steps that the U.S. would need to take in order to return to that compliance as well will be up for discussion,” she said.
Last month, the Biden administration sought to launch a dialogue with China, only to be lectured instead by Chinese officials.
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