Iran’s next president gives Biden a new nuclear puzzle
The issue is one of many looming over nuclear talks, which have just concluded a sixth round this weekend. Discussions took place mainly in Vienna, with European officials serving as intermediaries for the Iranian and US delegations, which do not have formal diplomatic relations and do not negotiate directly with each other.
Officials say talks are progressing, but no one is ready to definitively predict that a resolution is in sight, and the election of Raisi could complicate deliberations.
“Everything is being negotiated under the mantra ‘Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, so at this point nothing is agreed because everything has not been agreed, “said an official. American close to the case. “There is less [differences] that remain, but almost by definition those that remain are the most difficult to resolve.
Senior British, French and German diplomats echoed the remarks in a statement on Sunday, urging all parties to “return to Vienna and be ready to strike a deal.” Diplomats are also closely monitoring talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, over a possible extension of a temporary inspection agreement expiring Thursday.
A final arrangement to revive the 2015 deal is expected to include the lifting of a series of sanctions by the United States and the end of many of its nuclear activities by Iran, as well as a consensus on how to sequence these steps. The United States also wants assurances from Iran that it will commit to continuing talks on a larger, more lasting deal, while Iran wants the United States to commit to Washington. is not giving up on a renewed deal in 2015 like Trump did.
Officials in the Biden administration largely avoid discussing the details of their negotiating position in public.
They won’t say, for example, if they make it a condition that Iran explicitly commits in writing to future talks on a larger deal. The Biden administration hopes these future talks can cover issues such as Iran’s ballistic missile program and its support for proxy militias and terrorist groups. Such future talks would likely also include addressing concerns raised by the scientific knowledge Iran has acquired over the past two years.
Critics of the administration warn that once the United States lifts numerous sanctions to revive the original deal, Biden will no longer have the leverage to persuade or force Iran to return to the table, little doesn’t matter what Tehran says now.
But U.S. officials say their Iranian counterparts have indicated they want, among other things, more economic aid than what the original nuclear deal offered, so Tehran is urged to return for more talks.
âThe same conditions that caused the [original deal] could result in a follow-up deal as there are still issues where Iran wants more from the US and issues where the US and others want more from Iran, âthe official said. American.
U.S. officials also won’t say, at this point, whether they’ll agree to lifting the sanctions against Raisi.
Raisi, 60, is a religious with a long experience in the Iranian regime, including oversight of its judicial system. He is implicated in numerous human rights abuses, including an alleged role in the mass executions of political prisoners in the 1980s. Raisi, who will take the presidency in August, won an election on Friday that was manipulated in his favor after the election. disqualification of many candidates. This manipulation shocked a large number of ordinary Iranians and voter turnout was exceptionally low.
Among US officials, some are convinced that Raisi’s election is not an insurmountable obstacle to relaunching the 2015 accord.
On the one hand, Raisi has indicated that he agrees with a return to the agreement. The timing could offer him a political cushion. If the two countries agree on a return to the deal before he takes office, he can blame his predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, if resuming the deal does not bring enough economic relief to Iran. If Iran experiences an economic boom due to the resumption of the deal, Raisi can claim credit.
But negotiators in Vienna are wary of the possibility that Raisi could try to make a mark early on by injecting additional demands into the negotiations.
Monday, he held a press conference in which he demanded that the United States “lift all oppressive sanctions against Iran.” He said Iran’s ballistic missile program was “non-negotiable” and ruled out limits on Iran’s support for militias outside its borders.
These are topics that U.S. officials hope to address as part of a broader follow-up deal with Iran. Raisi ruled out a meeting with Biden, which was unlikely in the first place. When asked about his role in the executions of the 1980s, Raisi deviated widely, saying, according to media reports: âI am proud to be an advocate for human rights and the safety and comfort of people as a prosecutor wherever I go. be.
In Iran’s Islamist system of governance, final authority rests with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who appears inclined to strike a deal with Washington that will remove many of the sanctions that have hurt his country’s economy. Raisi is close to Khamenei and could succeed him as Supreme Leader, and he will likely ultimately follow Khamenei’s instructions on how to approach the ongoing talks.
Some recent history also bodes well: the talks that led to the 2015 accord originally began under the leadership of another radical Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though they were later led by the team assembled by Rouhani, the outgoing Iranian president, who is considered a moderate.
Whether the Biden administration agrees to lift the sanctions against Raisi could depend on how it decides to categorize them.
When Trump walked out of the nuclear deal in 2018, he reimposed all of the US nuclear-related sanctions that had been lifted by the deal. He then went further, racking up sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program but also for human rights violations, support for terrorism and other issues. (Even when the nuclear deal was fully in place, the United States maintained a series of non-nuclear sanctions against Iran, including those related to human rights. Trump simply added more.)
Iranian officials have demanded that all Trump-era sanctions be lifted. “They avoid focusing on details – they say it all [Trump-era sanctions] should be lifted and not focus on individual names, âthe US official familiar with the situation told POLITICO. But by definition, this includes the sanctions against Raisi, that Trump took in 2019.
U.S. officials have already told Iran that Biden will not lift all sanctions imposed by Trump, as many of them appear to have a legitimate basis. But they also said some Trump-era sanctions appeared to be aimed at making the return to the nuclear deal more difficult, not punishing Iran for terrorism or other non-nuclear reasons. The suggestion is that these sanctions could be lifted.
Rarely does the United States sanction the head of a foreign government. In theory, the sanctions limit Raisi’s ability to travel, including coming to New York for United Nations meetings.
Already, some critics of the original nuclear deal insist that the Biden administration, which has been keen to tout its commitment to human rights, uphold the sanctions against Raisi. Amnesty International recently said Iran’s new president should be investigated for “crimes against humanity. “
“You look at Raisi’s record and the sanctions are justified,” said Michael Singh, who served on the National Security Council under former President George W. Bush. âIf you really want to target the perpetrators of human rights abuses, then Raisi falls into this category.