scorecardIran says it's returning to nuclear deal talks after stalling for months
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Iran says it's returning to nuclear deal talks after stalling for months

John Haltiwanger   

Iran says it's returning to nuclear deal talks after stalling for months
PoliticsPolitics3 min read
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meets the governors and deputies of the East and West Azerbaijan provinces in Tehran, Iran on October 21, 2021.     Getty Images
  • Iran says it will return to nuclear negotiations by the end of November.
  • Iran suspended the indirect talks with the US in June and has since stalled on resuming them.

Iran on Wednesday announced that it's returning to negotiations aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal by the end of November.

Ali Bagheri, the deputy foreign minister, tweeted that he's been involved in "very serious and constructive dialogue" on the "essential elements for successful negotiations" with Enrique Mora, the European Union's deputy secretary general for political affairs.

"We agree to start negotiations before the end of November. Exact date would be announced in the course of the next week," Bagheri added.

Iran suspended the indirect talks with the US, which began in April in Vienna, following Ebrahim Raisi's victory in the country's presidential election in June. The Iranian government has stalled on returning to the negotiations for months, raising concerns that the deal would never be revived. Raisi is a hardliner who frequently rails against the West.

President Joe Biden has made restoring the landmark pact a major foreign policy goal. The deal was orchestrated under the Obama administration when Biden was vice president.

The agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

Then-President Donald Trump in May 2018 controversially withdrew the US from the deal, going against the wishes of key US allies like France, Germany, and the UK. Trump implemented a "maximum pressure" strategy against Iran, attempting to squeeze it into negotiating a more stringent version of the 2015 deal via harsh economic sanctions. But his approach failed, and raised tensions between Washington and Tehran to historic heights.

After Trump ordered a January 2020 drone strike that killed Iran's top general, Qassem Soleimani, there were fears a new war was on the horizon in the Middle East. Both countries ultimately walked away from a broader conflict. But tensions remain - particularly in relation to attacks on US troops by Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria - and the animosity has threatened to derail Biden's goal of reviving the 2015 deal.

Iran over the past few years has taken significant steps away from the deal, and the Biden administration in July warned that the JCPOA could soon be beyond saving.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a joint press conference with the Israeli foreign minister, Yair Lapid, earlier this month underscored that "time is running short" to restore the agreement.

"We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn't change course, and these consultations with our allies and partners are part of it," Blinken said.

"We will look at every option to deal with the challenge posed by Iran," Blinken added. "And we continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to do that. But, it takes two to engage in diplomacy, and we have not seen from Iran a willingness to do that at this point."

Though Iran has agreed to return to the Vienna talks - the deal's future is still up in the air.

"We have seen the reports but do not have any further details about a possible return to Vienna talks in November," a State Department spokesperson told Insider. "As we have said many times, we are prepared to return to Vienna, and we believe that it remains possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on return to mutual full compliance with the JCPOA by closing the small number of issues that remained outstanding at the end of the sixth round of talks in June."

"As we have also been clear, this window will not remain open forever as Iran continues to take provocative nuclear steps, so we hope that they come to Vienna to negotiate quickly and in good faith," the spokesperson added.