The return to the US-Iran nuclear deal continues to drag on in a process that is dragging on. Neither country is willing to be the first to give in, a position that hinders understanding between the two. Iran is demanding that the United States take the first step, since it was the US that decided to unilaterally withdraw from the nuclear pact in 2018, and that it lift all financial sanctions imposed on the Persian country. The US, however, calls on the Islamic Republic to return to the goals set out in the agreement on its nuclear programme.
Last April, both the United States and Iran decided to return to the negotiating table in a process that has been dubbed the Vienna Talks, where the various delegations of the countries that signed the pact - China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany - as well as the European Union, are negotiating with Iran the requirements for a return to the 2015 nuclear pact. In parallel to these talks, the Islamic Republic and the US are holding indirect talks.
Six rounds of talks later, the negotiations are practically back to where they started. Likewise, the relationship between the Persian country and the United States seems to be growing increasingly tense, as both have reproached each other on multiple occasions for torpedoing the return to the nuclear pact, despite the fact that the governments of Washington and Tehran have insisted that their objective is to recover the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The seventh round of negotiations, which was expected to be the last and decisive one, has been postponed indefinitely at Iran's request. The Islamic Republic has reported that it will not be until Iran's new president, Ebrahim Raisi, is sworn in and forms a government that the Vienna Talks will resume.
On top of all these obstacles comes a new setback from Iran's Security Council. Ali Rabiei, spokesman for the outgoing administration of Iranian President Hassan Rohani, has said that the country's Supreme National Security Council has rejected a proposed deal to restore the JCPOA and limit Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. Rabiei said the body dismissed the new deal as "non-compliant" with a parliamentary bill.
Last December, Iran's parliament passed a bill urging the nation's president to end international nuclear inspections led by the United Nations (UN), and the new legislation stipulated the production of uranium enriched to 20 per cent for peaceful purposes and an increase in its stockpile of fissile material, largely in breach of the 2015 nuclear deal. Rohani criticised the passage of this law and stated that the Tehran government did not agree with this ruling as he considered it "detrimental to diplomatic efforts".
Despite the executive's words, the Iranian parliament, controlled by hardline parties, passed its bill and the Islamic Republic has managed to enrich uranium to 60%, a figure far higher than the 3.67% agreed in the nuclear pact. In the same vein, and in an attempt to pressure the United States to accept the conditions imposed by the Islamic Republic to recover the PAIC, the Iranian president himself asserted last week that his country was capable of enriching uranium to 90%. "If one day 90 per cent is needed for any reactor, we can achieve it," Rohani said.
The rejection by Iran's National Security Council of an alleged proposal could shake any hopes of a deal between the US and the Islamic Republic. The Iranian government spokesman clarified that as a consequence of the decision taken by this body, negotiations will not continue until "all the requirements set out in this law are met, negotiations will be postponed until after the complete handover of the administration, and the new negotiating team will be responsible for this".
Ali Rabiei added, in a statement reported by the Mehr news agency, that "the positions of the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding the JCPOA have always been prepared and followed in accordance with the instructions of the supreme decision-making bodies". However, the US has not confirmed the proposal Rabiei referred to and the US State Department has previously denied that a final agreement has been reached between the parties.
A return to the nuclear deal is looking increasingly distant and the future of the JCPOA will have to wait until Iran's newly elected president, Ebrahim Raisi, is sworn in in August before the future of the JCPOA can be determined. Raisi, in his first press conference before the media after being elected as the new president, stated that he would embrace the legacy of the Rohani administration and continue the Vienna Talks, although Raisi's stance is expected to be firmer on the requirements and lifting of sanctions on Iran.