Khamenei Adds to Doubts on Iran Nuclear Deal Talks
Iran’s top leader on Wednesday instilled new doubts about stalled efforts to save the country’s 2015 nuclear pact with the great powers, accusing the United States of duplicity and berating the outgoing Iranian president for being naive.
The remarks by the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, come a week before President Hassan Rouhani – an architect of the original nuclear deal – stepped down after eight years.
The fate of Iran’s negotiations with the United States to revive the agreement, suspended for more than a month, now lies with Mr. Rouhani’s successor, Ebrahim Raisi, an arch-conservative disciple of Mr. Khamenei who takes his duties in a week. .
The tone and timing of Mr. Khamenei’s remarks, which he delivered in person to Mr. Rouhani and his cabinet at a meeting reported by Iranian state media, amounted to a public rebuke from the outgoing president. The remarks also sent a message that the negotiations are likely to face new challenges under Mr Raisi.
“A very important experience from this period that future generations should use is distrust of the West,” Khamenei said during a speech to the outgoing president and his aides, according to an account reported by Iranian news agency Fars.
“In this government it has become clear that trust in the West is not working and that they are not helping, and they are hitting wherever they can, and if they are not hitting somewhere, it is because that they can’t, ”Khamenei said. .
The 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, including the United States, granted Iran relief from heavy economic sanctions in exchange for verifiable commitments to severely restrict its nuclear work and significantly reduce its uranium stocks. , which can be used to craft fuel for bombs.
President Donald J. Trump repudiated the deal in 2018, calling it insufficiently strict and reimposing US sanctions that have hampered the Iranian economy in what he called a “maximum pressure” campaign. Iran has since suspended compliance with key provisions of the agreement.
While Iran has insisted its nuclear ambitions remain purely peaceful, non-proliferation experts say the country is now much closer to bomb-making capability than it was under of the agreement.
Talks to save the deal from collapse began under the Biden administration. Early hopes for a restoration quickly faded, with Iran demanding that the United States first roll back the sanctions and ensure it would never repudiate the deal again.
Biden’s negotiators said Iran must return to full compliance with the deal and prepare for further negotiations aimed at limiting Iranian missile development and support for militant groups in the Middle East. US officials have also dismissed the guarantee demanded by Iran.
Both sides said progress had been made but appeared to remain distant when talks, held through intermediaries in Vienna, were suspended in June.
Mr Khamenei, who as Iran’s supreme leader has the final say on national security matters, said the United States was responsible for the deadlock in reviving the deal, known as of the Common Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“In these talks, the Americans have stood firm in their stubborn position and have taken no steps forward,” he said.
The State Department rejected Mr. Khamenei’s claims, saying the Biden administration was “sincere and determined to achieve a mutual return to compliance.”
“We have made it clear that we are ready to return to Vienna to resume negotiations,” the department said in an emailed statement. “The same cannot be said for Iran. No amount of deviation can mask this.
Signs of unrest in the talks began to appear among the countries that were part of the original deal – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. They played a leading role as intermediaries.
Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for the French Foreign Ministry, Agnes von der Mühll, blamed Iran on Iran.
“If he continues on this path, not only will he continue to delay the conclusion of a sanctions lifting agreement, but it risks jeopardizing the very possibility of concluding the Vienna talks and re-establishing the JCPOA,” he said. she told reporters.
Analysts who have followed the story of the nuclear deal noted that Mr Khamenei, in his remarks on Wednesday, had not ended the talks, which they saw as a sign he still wanted they succeed – and that he wanted his protégé, Mr. Raisi, to gain political credit for such an achievement.
“He has not shied away from banning such engagements in the past when he believes negotiations are unnecessary or damaging,” said Henry Rome, Middle East expert at Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy.
But the message of Mr Khamenei’s remarks, Mr Rome said, “really underscores the fact that getting back into the deal will never be easy or immediate”.
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