The reissuance of the nuclear deal seems imminent. It could be a matter of hours, days or weeks. But it could also be postponed until November, after the mid-term elections in the United States, or not even forged after 17 months of negotiations. With several issues still to be resolved, the parties are delaying their responses in order to amplify others' concessions and devalue their own. There are no missteps, only a negotiating framework undermined by external demands and pressures.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi appeared on Monday at an atypical press conference before a dozen national and international media to, among other issues, update Tehran's position on the reactivation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015 and abandoned by the United States in 2018. The draft presented a fortnight ago by the European Union revived an agreement that was hanging by a thread. Now, Washington and Tehran are exchanging written responses, "passing the buck", without finalising their definitive approval.
Iran added three conditions to the Brussels text: removing the label of "terrorist organisation" that applies to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, the elite branch of the Iranian army in close contact with like-minded regional militias; ensuring that the US remains committed in the event of a change of regime; and guaranteeing that the US will maintain its commitment in the event of a change of regime in the event of a change of regime. The US should maintain its commitment in the event of a hostile change of Administration to the JCPOA, a clause that is more deterrent than restrictive on paper; and end the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation into uranium traces found at three undeclared Iranian facilities.
The Persian leader, reluctant at the beginning of his speech to comment on the negotiations underway to resume the nuclear deal, insisted on this last premise for reaching an agreement: "Without resolving these problems [the resolution of safeguards issues between Iran and the IAEA], there is no point in reaching an agreement". Raisi was alluding to the monitoring of Iran's nuclear programme by the UN agency since 2015, when the ayatollahs' regime accepted the terms of the JCPOA in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, and demanded its immediate completion in order to sign it.
As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran is obliged to justify the tests, but it has "stated time and again that weapons have no place in its nuclear doctrine". "The Leader of the Islamic Revolution has frequently announced that the acquisition of such weapons is religiously forbidden," Raisi reiterated in remarks carried by the state-run Mehr news agency. In a defiant tone, the Persian leader stressed that no one can "deprive the Iranian nation of its inalienable right to access peaceful nuclear technology".
After Trump's forced departure from Washington, Tehran began to renege on the terms of the nuclear agreement and rapidly advanced its atomic project, which is now at an advanced stage. According to the latest data published by the IAEA, the Islamic Republic has some 3,800 kilos of uranium enriched to over 60% purity, a level never before reached by the Persian authorities since the start of its nuclear programme in 2003, which, according to experts, would place it close to 90% suitable for processing.
The president's public appearance coincided with his first anniversary in office. At the end of August 2021, the former head of the judiciary officially replaced Hassan Rohani after a fraudulent election, less competitive than usual, in which the regime's leadership vetoed hundreds of pre-candidates to select seven pro-government candidates. Raisi, a hardliner, was virtually assured of victory as a possible successor to the octogenarian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
The former head of the judiciary, who was implicated in the extrajudicial executions of political prisoners in the 1980s, made it clear that the Iranian negotiating team in Vienna, led by Ali Bagheri Kani, will not leave the negotiating table. On the other hand, Raisi blamed the International Atomic Energy Agency, headed by Argentinean diplomat Rafael Grossi, for thwarting the agreement if its demands are not met.
Tehran's goal is to see a large part of the sanctions on its ailing economy lifted. "The negotiations are about removing sanctions," Raisi told a press conference. "Those who abandoned their commitments must come back and fulfil their obligations. Our emphasis in these negotiations is the removal of sanctions". In this regard, Raisi said that Iran has been able to access some of its assets in Iraq, hitherto frozen by US sanctions.
Asked about a possible meeting with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September, Raisi replied with a terse "no". "There is no benefit to a meeting between us and him," the ayatollah concluded, also issuing a threat to Israel. "They will see if there is anything left of the Zionist regime or not," he said, should the Hebrew authorities continue to launch attacks on senior Iranian officials.
Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.