Story by Brendon Donoho / Contributing Writer
Diplomatic talks continue this week in Vienna where a joint commission of France, Russia, Germany, China, the United Kingdom, and the European Union are hoping to find agreeable grounds under which the United States and Iran can re-enter the 2015 JCPOA, colloquially known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal.”
Now, nearly 80 days in to President Biden’s term, the two are still struggling to find an acceptable agreement to revive the JCPOA.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a recent interview with CNN that Iran’s position has been “crystal clear” that all sanctions imposed upon Iran after former President Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 must be lifted before Iran will agree to rejoin the deal and resume accountability to UN investigators.
As discussed in my previous piece, Iran, by all reliable metrics, was faithful to the JCPOA for the entirety of its implementation and even remained faithful for nearly a year after the deal was voided by the Trump administration.
The US, for its part, says that while some of the Trump era sanctions will be lifted as a part of the nuclear deal, others must be allowed to remain in place as they claim that these sanctions are unrelated to Iran’s nuclear aspirations.
Much of the standoff is also a discussion of who will move first as both the US and Iran expect the other to come back in to compliance with the JCPOA first. Iranian and American leaders are also not speaking directly to one another but through correspondents from other nations involved in the Joint Commission.
While the talks do appear to be somewhat fruitful thus far, they are being threatened by at least two attacks on Iran by the Israeli military.
This began with Israel’s explosive attack on an Iranian ship off the coast of Yemen on Wednesday. The ship was believed to be supplying weapons to the Houthi Rebels in the ongoing proxy war in Yemen, between Iranian and Saudi backed forces.
Then, on Monday, Israel carried out a cyberattack on an Iranian nuclear facility causing a “possible minor explosion.” Tensions continue to escalate in the region after these two attacks with Iranian spokesman Khatibzadeh vaguely threatening some kind of retaliation from Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has been a vocal opponent of the JCPOA and said on Wednesday that Israel would not be bound by the agreement if it was reinstated in Vienna.
Israel has long been opposed to diplomatic relations with Iran. Both Israel and the United States voted against a motion to work toward establishing a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East, a move which Iran and most Arab states support but which has been either opposed or linked to a larger Arab-Israeli peace deal repeatedly by Israel.
Iran has yet to respond militarily to Israel’s attacks and talks in Vienna seem to be going well, but there are growing worries that Israel’s actions may derail the reinstitution of the JCPOA, a complication which the Israeli government seems to welcome.
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