Iran Presses Its Advantage in Vienna

May 11, 2022 | Prabhat Jawla
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Negotiations in Vienna to revive the Iran nuclear deal have dragged out for more than a year; as Prabhat Jawla notes, “the Biden administration’s hopes for a quick restoration of the 2015 agreement, unilaterally abandoned by Donald Trump, have been hampered from the outset.” Jawla examines some of the reasons behind the prolonged discussions, along with the possible consequences for domestic constituencies in both Iran and the United States.

By simply stating its intent to negotiate [based] on the original [2015] deal, the Biden administration squandered the leverage left by Trump’s Iran policy, which had seen Iran’s oil revenues plummet and the country’s economy experience recession for consecutive years. Biden, during the campaign, pledged, “I would rejoin the agreement and use our renewed commitment to diplomacy to work with our allies to strengthen and extend it.” Tehran, for its part, saw this as an opening and has since pressed for more from the negotiations, such as guarantees against future sanctions and the removal of the terrorist label from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), none of which were part of the original deal.

Concessions to Iran have already been greeted by a furious response from Biden’s detractors. First was the release of Iranian funds frozen in South Korea in cooperation with the United States in a trade-off for payment of approximately $18 million (which Iran owed the United Nations in arrear dues), and then a restoration of Iran’s voting rights in the UN General Assembly.

Critics have also pointed to Iran’s release in March of two British hostages—Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori—in return for releasing almost £400 million in debt from Britain held up by U.S. sanctions (although the U.S. State Department has denied involvement).

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