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Why Iran has rejected the US-EU proposal to negotiate nuclear agreements – for now

Iran has ruled out discussing the future of a nuclear deal with the United States, keeping the two nations on a confrontational path instead of a diplomatic one.

On February 18, Washington adopted a proposal for informal talks with Tehran, mediated by the European Union. The goal was for both sides to negotiate the way forward so that the United States can re-enter the multinational pact that limits Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing sanctions imposed by the Trump administration in 2018. After that exit, Iran pressured America to repeal these penalties, including other things, enriching uranium above the agreed levels in the agreement.

Now the Trump administration has been replaced by the Biden administration, which wants to re-enter the deal. But efforts have come to a standstill: Iran wants sanctions against it lifted before welcoming America back, and the United States is urging Tehran to comply with the limitations of the agreement on its nuclear development.

Iran had said it was “considering”

; the proposal to meet, which means that EU-mediated talks are only days or weeks away. But this “maybe” turned into a “no” on Sunday, a worrying indicator that the diplomatic path will not be clear.

“The time is not ripe for the proposed informal meeting,” Said Hatibzadeh, a spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, said on Sunday.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on Tehran’s decision, noted that Iran did not want to meet with the United States until it became clear that it would receive sanctions from such a meeting. Instead, the Islamic Republic wants the EU to mediate a “step-by-step process” in which Washington and Tehran offer concessions before any talks.

A White House spokesman said the Biden administration was “disappointed with Iran’s response,” but added: “We remain ready to re-engage in meaningful diplomacy to achieve a reciprocal return to compliance” with the nuclear deal.

However, maintaining chances for diplomacy is easier said than done.

Why Iran has rejected a proposal to negotiate nuclear agreements, at least for now

It is always difficult to understand why the Iranian government is doing what it is doing. But in his tweet, Hatibzadeh offered two specific clues.

He said the reason “the time is not ripe” for the US-Iran talks is because of “US / E3 actions”, which means recent actions by the US and three European countries that signed the nuclear deal: the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

The American part seems clear. Tehran is upset that sanctions continue to stifle its economy, and is certainly unhappy with President Joe Biden’s decision to strike Iran-backed proxies in eastern Syria on Thursday. The attack – in retaliation for numerous aggressions by Tehran fighters against US and allied targets in recent weeks – struck nine facilities useful for smuggling proxy weapons.

Agreeing to negotiate soon after the bombs were dropped is certainly considered impossible among key Iranian officials, experts said.

And part E3 is probably related to a plan to condemn Iran for its nuclear development. Simply put, Tehran has limited the ability of the International Atomic Energy Agency – a UN observer – to inspect its nuclear facilities, as provided for in the Iranian nuclear deal. To show their displeasure, the United States and the three European nations want to formally expose the Islamic Republic to the global body.

The proposal, which will be presented this week, aims to “express the board’s growing concern about Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA,” the United States said in a report to other member states. Not surprisingly, Tehran called the upcoming move “destructive” and threatened to further weaken ties with the IAEA – perhaps cutting them off altogether.

For now, the Biden administration does not appear to have panicked over Iran’s refusal to meet. “We will not be dogmas or supporters of the form,” an unnamed senior official told the Wall Street Journal. “We want to make sure that any formal process that will be effective.”

Therefore, the chance for diplomacy is not dead, and according to some experts, Washington and Tehran will eventually reach an agreement. What is dead, however, is some long-term chance for a smooth and easy way forward.

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