Israeli officials reportedly believe Iran is unlikely to agree to a return to the 2015 nuclear deal, a day after European officials submitted a final proposal for an agreement.
An Israeli official dismissed European expressions of optimism in recent days as “manufactured optimism intended to pressure the Iranians to make a decision, but the Iranians don’t want to accept the deal as it is,” in comments published by the Ynet news site Tuesday.
Negotiators from Iran, the US, and the European Union resumed indirect talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal on Thursday after a months-long standstill in negotiations. On Monday, a so-called final text was submitted to the parties to the talks in a last gasp bid to salvage the deal.
An unnamed source told the Haaretz daily that Iran would be hard-pressed to sign an agreement that was not an upgrade over the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the original nuke deal was known.
“There’s no strategic change for the Iranians,” the source said in comments published Tuesday. “It will be very difficult for them to accept a deal that is not a significant improvement [from their perspective] on the original accord.”
The source added that while some of Iran’s nuclear negotiators are interested in a deal, the Islamic Republic’s ruler Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei seems to be strongly opposed.
Iran agreed to the JCPOA in 2015 with the US, France, Germany, Britain, Russia, and China. The deal saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium under the watch of UN inspectors in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Then-US president Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the accord in 2018, much to the delight of Israel’s government and then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and said he would negotiate a stronger deal, but that didn’t happen. Iran began breaking the deal’s terms a year later.
Israel believes Iran wishes to build a nuclear bomb. It has reportedly carried out sabotage operations within the Islamic Republic to delay their development of a weapon.
Iran has denied any nefarious intentions and claims its program is designed for peaceful purposes. Since the deal’s de facto collapse, however, Iran has been running advanced centrifuges and rapidly growing its stockpile of enriched uranium. Some officials have also begun openly talking about nuclear weapons development.
A main sticking point in the negotiations was Iran’s demand for its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard to be removed from the US list of terrorist organizations — a designation imposed by Trump in 2019.
“Now the ball is in the court of the capitals and we will see what happens,” a European official said after the final text was submitted Monday. “No one is staying in Vienna.”