But while the meeting breaks a month-long dead end between the two sides, success is expected to be anything but simple.
The meeting, to be held in Vienna, will be attended by senior officials from the six countries remaining in the agreement following the US withdrawal in May 2018 – Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran. The Europeans will form working groups among the participants and act as intermediaries for the United States and Iran, which do not plan face-to-face meetings.
No schedule has been announced. In an ideal world for both sides, agreement will be reached within two months before Iran holds its presidential election in June. Hard-liners are preferred to win and can lead to a harder trade.
“I think the Biden administration made a wrong calculation to delay this process,”
Biden officials disagree that they pulled their feet and note that the new administration has been consumed with its domestic agenda and that Iran has refused its offer of direct talks. Until recently, both Tehran and Washington insisted that the other first take unilateral steps to return to compliance with the terms of the agreement.
The issue went further after the United States offered indirect talks, and last week Iran accepted an offer that the European Union should host the talks in the separate room.
“At the moment, we do not expect direct talks with Iran, although of course we will remain open to them. And then we’ll have to see how things go, starting early this week, ”Price said.
Publicly, Iran still rejects the kind of simultaneous, sequential steps toward compliance that the administration envisions. “We only have one step and not step by step [lifting of sanctions,] and this one step includes the lifting of all sanctions imposed by the United States, ”Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a news conference in Tehran on Monday, according to Iran’s PressTV.
“In return, Iran will be ready to reverse its remedial action, which was taken due to the opposing side’s violation of the treaty,” Khatibzadeh said, reiterating a bottom line expressed in recent weeks by Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei. .
“Obviously, if they stick to this position, we are not going anywhere,” DiMaggio said. “My opinion is that this is an opening bid” and “the Iranians will have to move back” to accept simultaneous actions, she said.
The “remedial measures” Iran began a year after President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement almost three years ago include restarting uranium enrichment at a higher level than allowed under the agreement and bringing online advanced , prohibited centrifuges. U.S. officials now estimate that Iran’s “outbreak time” – the time needed to gather enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon – which had risen to at least a year below the restrictions, has now dropped to a few months.
U.S. opponents of the agreement have argued that increased enrichment has given Iran erratic knowledge that no return to its original terms can eliminate. But the “Biden administration must accept increased knowledge. We can do nothing about it, ”said Kelsey Davenport, director of non-proliferation policy at the Arms Control Association.
“The critical question is, can it be controlled. . . Can the benefits of non-proliferation of JCPOA still be restored, ”she said of the agreement formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan. “I will definitely say.”
For Iran, reversing compliance with the agreement by milling centrifuges and returning enriched uranium can be far simpler than what it requires the United States to do to return to the agreement.
Chief among the complications are the more than 1,500 sanctions and designations Trump withdrew on Iran after withdrawing from the deal, even as he reintroduced the nuclear-related measures that had been lifted under the deal.
Iran has demanded a complete return to where things stood when the agreement was signed in 2015. But the agreement only applied to nuclear-related sanctions; the new Trump-imposed measures were introduced for a range of alleged sins, from attempts to build a nuclear weapon – a goal that Iran has consistently denied – to expanding its ballistic missile program, supporting proxy forces fighting regional battles and allegedly sponsoring state terrorism.
As they approached the talks, U.S. officials have spent weeks trying to separate the web of Trump sanctions that trade supporters are deliberately charging were chosen to make it impossible for a new administration to change policy. Among them are anti-terror sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran and the terrorist designation of the Islamic Islamic Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian military responsible for proxies and domestic repression.
“When Donald Trump violated the JCPOA. . . he resorted to a policy of maximum pressure on Iran. . . which included sanctioning everything his team could think of, whether it was nuclear related, ”said Thomas Countryman, chairman of the Arms Control Association and a career diplomat who served as acting Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.
“Both the Trump administration’s officials and the regime change lobby here in Washington were and still are very explicit that the purpose was to make it as difficult as possible for a subsequent administration to remove sanctions,” he said.