Iran is still scrutinizing the U.S. response to its statements on a “final document” that Europe conveyed to the Americans. It appears that within Iran, too, there are disagreements over what stance to take, particularly regarding the date to sign the deal and whether it is worth extending the Vienna talks into the winter to score further achievements. In any case, Tehran apparently is in no hurry to sign. It asserted publicly that the nuclear deal would not affect its economic-rehabilitation program and is not part of it. Also publicly, Iranian spokesmen said the examination of the U.S. response would “continue at least until the weekend.”
Meanwhile, Qatar’s efforts to mediate between the Iranian and European-American sides continue. Qatar’s deputy foreign minister spoke by phone with the EU top negotiator for the Vienna talks, Enrique Mora, and met (August 27, 2022) in Tehran with Ali Bakri Kani, head of Iran’s negotiating team. In June, Qatar hosted two days of indirect U.S.-Iranian talks. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also spoke with the foreign minister of Oman (where preliminary Iranian-U.S. contacts were held toward the signing of the 2015 nuclear deal). He told him Iran would state its position after weighing the U.S. response.
The Issues That Have Remained “Sensitive and Fateful”
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani said (August 28) that Iran would submit its response after its “experts” finish their confidential discussions on the details of the U.S. response. He asserted that Iran is conducting itself “responsibly” and said the latest round of talks in Vienna were “positive and making progress…most of the issues have been resolved, but those that remain are very sensitive, important, and fateful.” He stressed that Iran wants an agreement because it will serve its interests. He criticized the negotiating team under the previous government of President Hassan Rouhani and said the current team had discussed Iran’s red lines for the negotiations.
Concerning the U.S.-Israeli talks on the nuclear deal, Kanaani said, “We have to wait and see if the American administration keeps awaiting the stance and the order of priorities of the Zionist regime or will grant priority to the interests of the American people”—that is, sign the deal. Iranian sources indicated that Tehran would provide its response by the weekend. In any case, most of the Iranian print and broadcast media are highlighting Israel’s efforts to derail the agreement and its heavy pressure on Washington not to sign it and thereby return to the framework of the 2015 deal.1
“One Step Forward, Three Steps Backward”
Iran’s conservative Jomhouri Eslami newspaper cautiously claims that it obtained “through unofficial information in media channels” parts of the United States’ “long and detailed response” to Iran’s positions. According to the paper, the United States has agreed to one demand, namely, to submit the agreement for congressional approval and thereby obligate the next U.S. president as well, but has rejected three of Iran’s “core” demands.
The United States has rejected, the paper claims, Iran’s demand for U.S. guarantees that Western companies will be able to trade with Iran. The United States agreed to allow all companies, except those under sanctions, to do business with Iran but said it could not force private companies to do so. “Large oil and machine-construction companies in Europe and Asia are not under our control, and we cannot order them to go and work in Iran…. It is certainly possible that some of the giant companies will not want, for whatever reasons of their own, to work and invest in Iran.”
The second rejected Iranian demand concerned American guarantees for international, European, and Asian companies, except those under U.S. sanctions, that will do business with Iran after the agreement is signed. Iran demanded that if Washington were again to withdraw from the nuclear deal and sanctions were to be reimposed, these companies would be compensated. The United States said in response that this would exceed the president’s authority and that he could offer an official guarantee only while serving in the White House and not afterward.
The third Iranian demand concerned reconnecting Iran to SWIFT, the international financial-messages service (from which Iran was removed in 2018), so it can conduct transactions in dollars. Washington said that while it agrees in principle to reconnect Iran, first, the latter must carry out the necessary reforms in the framework of FATF (the Financial Actions Task Force), which requires transparency, fighting corruption, and preventing the transfer of funds to terror groups. Indeed, recent years have seen a debate in Iran on whether to join FATF that is yet to be decided. Currently, it is on the organization’s blacklist along with North Korea. Certain actors in Iran, particularly those that funnel financial aid to terror groups, are leery of adopting transparency and allowing external actors to monitor Iran.
Jomhouri Eslami, which takes a hard line on Tehran’s negotiating stance, recently averred that time is working in Iran’s favor, and it should keep insisting on its demands and gain further achievements, even if it means further extending the negotiations. “Winter is approaching, and Europe will feel the cold and the price of the sanctions.” As submitted, the paper says the U.S. response indicates that the talks are in crisis. “The United States has taken a step forward [congressional approval of the deal] but three steps backward.” The paper emphasized that the three rejected demands are part of the economic recompense that Iran deserves for signing the agreement and that not granting them will harm Iran economically and preclude any financial benefit from returning to the deal. Therefore, as long as these demands are not resolved, there will be no return to the JCPOA framework.2
The newspaper Kayhan, which reflects the views of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, expressed concern (August 27) about reports in the West that Iran would ultimately forgo its red lines. The paper declared that the side that needs the deal is the West, which is in a severe energy crisis amid the ongoing war in Ukraine and the lack of Russian gas in the world market, not Iran. The paper again underscored the message, in a common motif of the Iranian leadership’s statements, that Iran does not need the nuclear deal or to sign the FATF to rehabilitate its economy. The paper “suggested to the Raisi government to wait two months, until winter arrives in Europe, to get a better deal.”
A Dangerous Report
Iran’s official IRNA news agency denounced the report in Jomhouri Eslami. According to IRNA, “the content that was published is divorced from reality and from the contents of the U.S. response, and full of false information…. Moreover, most of the claims raised are not on the negotiating table at all.” Iran’s official news agency claimed further that with the negotiations already so complicated, there is no need for reports that further “complicate the situation and play into the hands of Iran’s enemies.”3
The Supreme Leader’s Fatwa
Amid the contacts regarding the United States rejoining the nuclear deal, Iran again cited Khamenei’s fatwa against producing and using mass-destruction weapons.
The fatwa was mentioned in an article in Kayhan, which, as noted, reflects Khamenei’s outlook. Under the headline “A Farcical NPT Review Forum,” the report addressed the results of the 10th Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which ended last week. The article stressed the fact that despite the efforts of Iran, Syria, and other countries, the forum did not refer to Israel.
Such selective approach [sic] by the big powers who cry wolf at the mention of Iran even though the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, has issued a fatwa against manufacture and use of weapons of mass destruction, is indicative of the hypocrisy prevailing at the NPT as well as at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has politicized Tehran’s peaceful nuclear project despite the fact its inspectors and round-the-clock cameras have time and again ruled out any deviation.
The article also criticized Israel (“the illegal Zionist entity”) for refusing to join the NPT and acting against the Palestinians, as well as “several Arab states [that have signed peace agreements with Israel] who have humiliatingly put their necks under the Zionist yoke.”4
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