Close to reaching the end of the road: European powers on 2015 Iran nuclear deal

In a significant development, three European powers said “we are rapidly reaching the end of the road” to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Their comments suggests that unofficial U.S.-Iran talks on preserving the pact is probably close to collapse.

“Iran’s continued nuclear escalation means that we are rapidly reaching the end of the road,” said Nicolas de Riviere, France’s ambassador to the United Nations at the world body reading out a joint statement from France, Germany and Britain.

He went on to add, “We are nearing the point where Iran’s escalation of its nuclear programme will have completely hollowed out the JCPoA” in reference to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Iran has cast itself as the aggrieved party after former US President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to cancel the deal and reimpose sanctions; the move prompted Iran to violate its nuclear restrictions.

“Some actors persist in their blame game habit, instead of real diplomacy. We proposed our ideas early, and worked constructively and flexibly to narrow gaps,” tweeted Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani.

In reference to the 2018 U.S. withdrawal, he tweeted “Diplomacy is a two-way street. If there’s real will to remedy the culprit’s wrongdoing, the way for a quick, good deal will be paved.”

In a statement U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, Washington continues to pursue the diplomacy option with Iran since “it remains, at this moment, the best option”; however he noted, Washington was “actively engaging with allies and partners on alternatives”.

The stakes for Iran are high. Failure to arrive at a peaceful deal could risk regional war. In the past, Israel had attacked, twice, Iran’s nuclear facilities, and is pushing for a tough approach in the event diplomacy fails.

Going on the offensive, Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi said Tehran has exercised “maximum restraint” after Washington’s withdrawal from the pact and “paid a heavy price” to try to preserve the deal.

“Asking for objective and verifiable guarantees from the party responsible for the whole mess before us is absolutely warranted and necessary,” said Ravanchi to the UN.

Iran belives, a tough approach, spearheaded by their anti-Western Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, can force Washington to accept its “maximalist demands”, said analysts and diplomats.

“But it could backfire. This is a very dangerous and sensitive issue. Failure of diplomacy will have consequences for everyone,” said a diplomat on the condition of anonymity.

While Tehran insists on the immediate removal of all sanctions in a verifiable process, the United States said it would remove sanctions “inconsistent” with the nuclear pact if Iran resumed compliance, implying that sanctions imposed under terrorism or human rights measures would continue to remain in place.

Iran is also seeking guarantees that “no U.S. administration” will renege on the pact again. U.S. President Joe Biden cannot promise this since the nuclear deal is a non-binding political understanding, not a legally binding treaty.

Raising the stakes, Iran has limited access to U.N. nuclear watchdog inspectors under the nuclear deal, restricting their visits to declared nuclear sites only.

In contrast, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry said, an understanding with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency could come soon.

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