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Analysis

A year into Raisi’s reign, Tehran’s nuclear talks with world powers remain stalled

As Iranian president marks one year in office, a look back at the major developments in negotiations over the JCPOA during the past 12 months

President Ebrahim Raisi attends a live televised interview with state-run TV, at the presidency office in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 4, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
President Ebrahim Raisi attends a live televised interview with state-run TV, at the presidency office in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 4, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AFP) — Iran’s ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi came to power a year ago amid attempts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

The accord gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program to guarantee that it could not develop an atomic weapon — something it has always denied seeking. Former US president Donald Trump dumped the deal in 2018 and began reimposing painful economic sanctions, prompting Iran to start stepping back from its commitments.

In April 2021, with US President Joe Biden in the White House, talks on rescuing the accord began in Vienna. But they have stalled since March amid differences between Tehran and Washington on several issues.

Here are the main developments over the past year:

– As he is sworn in by the parliament on August 5, 2021, Raisi says Tehran backs any diplomatic moves to lift US sanctions, but will not bow to pressure.

– Talks on reviving the nuclear deal resume in November after a pause around Iran’s presidential polls. Iran says its delegation “is in Vienna with a firm determination to reach an agreement.”

The Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) revival talks, in Vienna on November 29, 2021. (VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP)

– February 2022 sees expressions of optimism from the parties to the talks, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine slows the issue down later in the month.

– On March 16, Tehran says two of its “red line” issues remain outstanding.

– On March 21, US State Department spokesman Ned Price says an agreement “is neither imminent nor is it certain.”

– On March 30, Washington announces new sanctions targeting several entities it says are involved in procuring supplies for Iran’s ballistic missile program. Tehran says the move shows US “ill will” towards the Iranian people.

– On May 25, the US point man on Iran Rob Malley warns “the odds of a successful negotiation are lower than the odds of failure.”

US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley speaks at the Doha Forum in Qatar, where indirect nuclear talks with Iran were held, March 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Lujain Jo)

– On June 8, the IAEA adopts a resolution submitted by Britain, France, Germany and the United States that condemns Iran for the first time in two years. Iran responds by removing surveillance cameras at nuclear facilities. IAEA head Rafael Grossi says Tehran’s move could be “a fatal blow” to negotiations.

Germany, Britain and France urge Iran to “cease its nuclear escalation,” while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warns of “a deepening nuclear crisis.”

– On June 16, Washington sanctions a network of Iranian petrochemical firms, as well as alleged front companies in China and the United Arab Emirates. Raisi condemns the sanctions, while the foreign ministry says the “train has still not derailed” in the negotiations. The UAE urges Iran to provide reassurances on the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.

– In late June, two days of EU-brokered indirect talks in Doha between Iran and the United States conclude with “no progress made,” the State Department says. Britain, France and Germany urge Iran to accept a deal on the table since March and reverse steps away from compliance with the IAEA.

– Early the next month, Iran says the United States bears responsibility for the failure of the Doha negotiations.

US President Joe Biden holds a joint press conference with Prime Minister Yair Lapid in Jerusalem, on July 14, 2022. (Emil Salman/POOL)

– On a visit to Jerusalem, Biden on July 14 vows to use “all” American power to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The next day, Iran says it is “more determined” to protect its own interests in the negotiations.

– On July 25, it says it will not be rushed into a “quick” deal.

– On July 26, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says he has submitted a draft text of a deal, urging parties to accept it or “risk a dangerous nuclear crisis,” writing in the Financial Times.

– On August 1, Iran says it remains “optimistic” that the negotiation process will lead to “a logical and reasonable outcome.”

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