Iran refuses to start informal talks with US to revive 2015 nuclear deal

Washington and Tehran are still waiting for the other to make the first move
Hassan Rohani said the West has no other way but to reach an agreement with Tehran to restore the 2015 nuclear deal.

PHOTO/Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP  -   Hassan Rohani said the West has no other way but to reach an agreement with Tehran to restore the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran dismissed a European proposal to start informal talks with the United States to revive the 2015 nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration and from which Donald Trump exited in 2018.  

"Considering the recent actions and statements by the United States and three European powers, Iran does not consider this the time to hold an informal meeting with these countries, which was proposed by the EU foreign policy chief," spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted by Iranian media as saying.

"The Biden administration has continued Trump's failed policy of maximum pressure and there has still been no change in the US positions and behaviour yet," he added, referring to last Friday's US attack on Iranian-allied militias in Deir Ezzor, a province in eastern Syria, in which an estimated 22 militiamen were killed.  

According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the bombing reportedly destroyed three trucks loaded with ammunition as well as weapons stores.  

Mapa que muestra Deir Ezzor, en el este de Siria
AFP/AFP - Map showing Deir Ezzor, eastern Syria

The US Department of Defense confirmed the attack on infrastructure used by Iranian-backed militias and stressed that they followed instructions from President Joe Biden.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby Kirby claimed that the strikes were in response to "recent attacks against American and allied personnel in in Iraq". He added that it was a "proportionate" response launched alongside diplomatic measures such as a consultation with international coalition partners against Daesh. “The operation sends an unequivocal message" Kirby said. 

Russia, an ally of Syria, was quick to condemn the attack, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova "urg(ing) Washington to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria," and she denounced any attempt to turn the region into an "arena for settling geopolitical scores."

”The Syrian Arab Republic condemns in the strongest terms the US aggression against its sovereignty, which contradicts with the terms of international law and the United Nations Charter and with its role as a permanent member of the Security Council,” the statement said. It warned that this aggression will lead to repercussions.

The bombing has made Tehran more reluctant to engage in dialogue, although its demand to lift the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration is also playing a role.  

El portavoz del Pentágono John Kirby; Kirby anunció a última hora del jueves 25 de febrero de 2021 que el Ejército estadounidense llevó a cabo ataques aéreos contra instalaciones en el este de Siria que, según el Pentágono, eran utilizadas por grupos de milicianos respaldados por Irán
AP/ALEX BRANDON - Pentagon spokesman John Kirby; Kirby announced late Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, that the U.S. military carried out airstrikes against facilities in eastern Syria that the Pentagon said were being used by Iranian-backed militia groups.

Since Biden's arrival in the White House, Iran and the US have been throwing the ball back in each other's court. While Tehran reiterates that sanctions should be lifted, Washington counters that Iran must first honour the commitments of the deal it has been breaking since the US pulled out. 

The US capital regrets Tehran's refusal to hold an informal meeting, but insists it remains ready to engage on the issue.  

“While we are disappointed at Iran’s response, we remain ready to reengage in meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with JCPOA commitments,” said a White House spokeswoman. “We will be consulting with our P5+1 partners on the best way forward,” said the official, referring to the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany.

El presidente de Estados Unidos, Joe Biden
PHOTO/AP - U.S. President Joe Biden
Domestic opposition in both countries

In the US, Biden is trying to avoid the perception that his administration wants to revive the deal at any cost, making concessions without getting anything in return, especially in the face of Republican opponents.  

In less than four months Iran's citizens will go to the polls to elect a new president, so no leader wants to appear subservient to the will of the US. Should the more conservative faction win, reviving the deal would undoubtedly be a much more complex task.