The European Union has presented the “final text” it believes will revive the Iran nuclear deal, following a new round of talks in Vienna. Such talks come only weeks after the USA brought in new sanctions against Iran, in hopes of reaching a new agreement with more favourable terms for the US, at Iran’s expense.
It has been four years since the USA unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and burdened Iran with a series of sanctions. Since the replacement of Donald Trump with Joe Biden, there has not in fact been a loosening of sanctions, but instead the introduction of new measures.
These new US restrictions affect a series of individuals and firms based in Iran, China, and the United Arab Emirates, accusing them of facilitating the trade of “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products from Iranian companies to East Asia.” Such new restrictions freeze the target’s assets in the USA, and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.
By increasing the pressure on Iran with greater sanctions on their foreign trade, the Biden administration is hoping to see the Iranian authorities settle on a renewed deal with conditions that better serve US interests.
Brian Nelson, under-secretary of the USA’s Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said of the sanctions, “While the United States is committed to achieve an agreement with Iran that seeks a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we will continue to use all our authorities to enforce sanctions on the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemicals.”
Clearly then, the negotiations surrounding the nuclear deal are much more focussed on the parties’ competing economic interests, than a genuine concern over uranium enrichment in Iran. Such negotiations got going with the Vienna talks, starting in April 2021, which saw the involvement of delegates from China, Russia, France, the UK, and Germany.
Having stalled in March this year the talks recently reopened, at which the European Union has proposed its “final draft” for reviving the deal. “What can be negotiated has been negotiated,” said the EU’s foreign policy negotiator, Josep Borrell, “and it’s now in a final text. However, behind every technical issue and every paragraph lies a political decision that needs to be taken in the capitals. If these answers are positive, then we can sign this deal.”
Negotiators shouldn’t be overly optimistic, as Iranian authorities have some reservations over both safeguards and sanctions. Tehran has concerns regarding the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who launched a series of probes into undeclared sites in Iran, where traces of enriched uranium were found. Tehran has previously accused the IAEA of being political, and maintained that its investigations must be brought to an end should a new deal be negotiated.
Worryingly for Iran, the Biden administration has previously suggested that some of the sanctions may continue, even if Iran does agree to a renewed nuclear deal, as some sanctions involve non-nuclear issues.
Of course, putting on the pressure to negotiate through sanctioning, and then not even guaranteeing an end to such sanctions if a deal is reached, is not exactly conducive to reaching a friendly agreement.
Mia English, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch