The United States has questioned Iran's claims regarding negotiations for the resumption of the nuclear deal. "We have demonstrated our great seriousness about wanting to return to the so-called JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday. "What we don't know yet is whether Iran is prepared to make the same decision and move forward," he added.
Meanwhile, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Joint Commission is meeting in Vienna on Friday for the fourth time since the resumption of negotiations. The summit will be made up of the signatories to the 2015 agreement, including China, Russia, Germany and the UK. The Iranian delegation has also confirmed its attendance after failing to attend the last meeting, however, it is the United States that will not be represented this time. This was announced by the European Union in a brief communiqué.
The EU's High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, will chair Friday's meeting. Borrell himself held a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week, in which they analysed the international scenario and discussed "the possible return" of the United States to the JCPOA. "We've been engaged for several weeks in Vienna with our European partners, with Russia, China and indirectly... with Iran," Blinken told the BBC.
So far, the State Department remains sceptical about Iran's role in the negotiations. For this reason, Washington has opted to take a step back in anticipation of a positive reaction from Tehran. In contrast to the maximum pressure strategy implemented by Trump, which has allowed Tehran to more easily develop its nuclear programme, the Biden administration aims to recover the mutual understanding reached in 2015 that would allow for a long-term agreement.
The Iranian delegation reported last week on the preparation of a deal for the release of four Americans imprisoned in Iran in connection with the nuclear deal negotiations in a report. The document angered US officials, who called the use of "unjustly imprisoned" US citizens as bargaining chips to win concessions "cruel". They also denied that there was any connection between the detainees and the nuclear negotiations.
Nonetheless, Washington has pledged its commitment to the negotiations if Tehran shows determination to resume the deal "in the coming days or weeks". Iran is making future approval of the nuclear deal conditional on the lifting of sanctions imposed by Trump in 2018 following its withdrawal from the deal, and the US is aware that it will have to comply with some easing of the sanctions regime.
The nuclear deal, reached by the Obama administration in 2015, mitigated sanctions harassment of Iran in exchange for monitoring and control of its nuclear activity. However, the abrupt US exit from the deal allowed the Tehran regime to proliferate its nuclear weapons. By Blinken's own admission: "Right now, unfortunately, Iran itself has lifted many of the restrictions imposed on it by the deal because we pulled out".
The head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, confirmed in April that the Islamic Republic had launched a programme to enrich uranium to 60 per cent purity, the highest level ever. The move was intended to exert pressure on the United States, but it made it more difficult to reach a deal in the short term. Despite continuous threats, Iran claims that the development of its nuclear project is part of a defensive strategy.
The Bavarian Office for the Protection of the Constitution, one of Germany's security agencies, last week published a report warning of Iran's latest moves on weapons. The document claims that Tehran is attempting to "supplement its conventional arsenal with the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction", but does not yet have the appropriate technologies. Instead, the country continues to develop ballistic missiles and other heavy weaponry.
Iran has reportedly tried to establish business contacts with Teutonic companies operating in the high-tech field, according to the report. Persian intelligence services have secretly pursued such activities behind the back of the United States. In addition, Iranian intelligence has extended the scope of its activities by targeting dissidents and political opponents living abroad.