Iran, Jcpoa, America discussed on The Economist: The Intelligence
Enrichment program in exchange for the lifting of many economic sanctions. As those sanctions came back into force, Iran got right back to work enriching uranium, edging ever closer to real weapons capability. In the meantime, the diplomacy hasn't gone anywhere. But after the first day of this week's negotiations, things were all smiles, and idiot, deputy secretary general of the EU's foreign service summed up the mood. And there is clearly a will of the Iranian delegation to engage in serious work and bring discipline back to life. So I feel I feel positive that we can be doing important things for the next weeks to come. There's a glimmer of hope there, but there's also still a long way to go. The first day of negotiations seemed to end on a positive note, which is actually pretty surprising. I mean, I think the mood going into these talks was pretty pessimistic. Roger mcshane is our Middle East editor. The administration of Joe Biden had thought it was close to restoring the JCPOA early this year, then that would change with the election of Abraham raisi, who's a hardliner. So, you know, I think people went into Vienna with pretty low expectations and surprisingly the first day has been rather positive. In what sense of what's what's being kicked around? Well, you're just seeing a lot of positive noises from people coming out of the top to people smiling, people saying, we've made some progress now lacuna is what that means. It's been one day of negotiations. And they're dealing with a lot of complicated stuff. I mean, you have a whole host of sanctions that America has heaped on Iran essentially cutting it off from the world economy. Iran wants those undone. And then you have the progress that Iran has made with its nuclear program. I mean, it's been doing things like testing events centrifuges hampering international inspections and most importantly increasing in stockpile of enriched uranium and well-being on the limit set in the original deal. And on top of that, it's just enriching that uranium to 60% purity. And that's a level that's usually only reached by countries that want to make bombs. So to put that on the perspective of the JCPOA, that deal was meant to keep Iran always at least a year away from what they called breakout. The point in where Iran had enough material for a bomb. Now it's somewhere between a few weeks and a few months away. And so what's actually being discussed in Vienna then just a return to the JPA as we understood it or something new altogether. Well, I mean, I think expectations are so low that America would be very happy to return to the JCPOA. Now, America is not directly involved in the talks there on the sidelines, but they're getting their message across via the Europeans. One way to look at a wrongs moves, it's sort of advancements in its nuclear program is as a way to gain leverage in these talks. And while you get some Iranian officials who say they're not averse to returning to the old deal, most are talking pretty tough, you know, they've demanded three main things for America. They wanted to admit wrongdoing in ditching the original deal. They wanted to immediately lift all sanctions on Iran. And they went to America to guarantee that any new agreement will last beyond Joe Biden's term. In other words, a future U.S. president of future Trump won't pull America out. This could all be busted. This could all be an attempt to drive a hard bargain in Vienna. But publicly Iranian officials have shown little interest in returning to the old deal or even conducting the kind of detailed negotiations that might produce a new one. So the fact that everyone walked out of the meeting today and was looking sounding very positive and, you know, that's pretty surprising. You've laid out what it is Iran would like from America who's it must be said not in the room. What is America's stance at this stage? Well, you know, the conditions laid out by Iran are impossible for America to meet. Start with the guarantee that the deal won't be ripped up by the next president. In order for that to happen, you need to turn the deal into a treaty, which would require approval of two thirds of the Senate, and that's just not going to happen. And neither is American and going to lift all of its sanctions on Iran because many of those sanctions have nothing to do with the nuclear program. They're related to Iran's sponsorship of terrorism. That's a non starter. But it sort of leaves the path forward unclear. Biden had hoped to simply sort of reenter the old deal before negotiating what he called a quote unquote longer and stronger deal. That also seems very unlikely at this point. And it's gotten to the point where America and its allies in much notably Israel. They're talking about plan B's, which is really just another word for sabotage and the tax on Iran's nuclear program. You've spoken extensively of what Iran wants and where that fits in with what America wants. What about the rest of the international community? They're being European powers, Britain, France, Germany, who are all signatories to the original deal they're working hard to get it restored, and they've tried to keep it alive all these years after America pulled out. They're really the ones doing the hard work in Vienna. Then you have China and Russia who are also seeing the Tories. They don't really have an interest in Iran gaining a nuclear weapon, but they probably don't mind watching America's squirm a bit. They have their own interest in the Middle East. Many of Iran's neighbors in the gulf. A lot of them oppose the original JCPOA. I think a lot of them have also now come around to it. But look, everyone knows that the real wild card in all this is Israel. It views Iran's nuclear program as an existential threat. And it says it's going to feel free to act no matter what happens in Vienna. For the past few years, it's been engaging in a shadow war with Iran. It's killed. It's nuclear scientists. You have Israeli officials saying they've developed weapons such as bunker busting bombs that could penetrate into their program, and then they would sort of obviate the need to rely on America to help out with any attacks. See, look, Israel is basically saying we can act, we can act alone, and we might act alone if things keep moving in the wrong direction. So the rhetoric kind of from all sides doesn't match all of those smiling faces coming out of the first day of talks. I mean, how to read what's going to happen for mean, I think before today, you would have thought that a deal was very unlikely or at least not an expensive deal. I think the best hope that a lot of people I was that some sort of interim deal could be reached, something that sort of froze Iran's nuclear program, froze its production of enriched uranium and America would ease some of its sanctions in return. And the idea was sort of you'd buy time for a broader negotiations. People sound positive today. Perhaps something more expansive is possible. But Joe Biden had hoped not only to jump back into the JCPOA but to negotiate what was often called a more for more deal. This is that longer and stronger deal. And going into Vienna, it was looking like a less for less dealers with this sort of highest hope you could have. There's also the separate question of whether the JCPOA is even worth restoring. And this is something that American officials have talked about. For one thing, parts of it expire in 2025, and the whole thing ends in 9 years time. Eventually, Iran's nuclear program will have made too many advances to safely return to the old deal, rum malley, America's chief negotiator on put it well when he says that you're not really dealing with a chronological clock.