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Presidential Election

Biden officials reportedly warn Iran's incoming president that time is running out to save nuclear deal

Business Insider
Business Insider
 2021-07-28

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Iranian Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a campaign meeting at the Mosalla mosque in Tehran
  • The US is warning Iran that the 2015 nuclear deal could soon be beyond saving, Axios reports.
  • Talks aimed at reviving the deal have been stalled as Iran prepares to inaugurate a new president.
  • The incoming president, Ebrahim Raisi, is a hardliner and close ally of Iran's supreme leader.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page .

The US is warning Iran's incoming president, Ebrahim Raisi, that the 2015 nuclear deal could soon be beyond saving, according to an Axios report .

The US and Iran have engaged in six rounds of indirect talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the nuclear pact, a top foreign policy goal of President Joe Biden. But the talks are stalled after Iran suspended the negotiations earlier this month, stating they would not resume until Raisi is inaugurated in early August.

Seyyed Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, in a tweet earlier this month said, "We're in a transition period as a democratic transfer of power is underway in our capital. [Vienna talks] must thus obviously await our new administration. This is what every democracy demands."

Meanwhile, a senior US official told Axios that in a few months Iran's nuclear program could advance to a point at which returning to the agreement would effectively be pointless. The official also expressed concern that the new government under Raisi, a hardliner and protégé of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will vie to get more concessions.

"We also hope they don't think they will get more than the previous government because they are tougher," the official said. "It's not about being tougher, it's about fully implementing the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. The US position will not change, and the Iranians will not be able to reinvent the nuclear deal or be in a situation where they do less and we do more."

Iran's authoritarian government rigged the country's June election in Raisi's favor. He won the election with roughly 62% of the vote amid historically low turnout. Only seven people were permitted to run for the presidency, and millions of voters stayed home in protest. Iran's Guardian Council prohibited influential moderates and reformists from running.

On Wednesday, Iran's supreme leader lashed out at the Biden administration over the talks, calling the US "stubborn."

"Westerners do not help us, they hit wherever they can," Khamenei said, per the Associated Press . "They don't help, they are enemies."

Responding to Khamenei's remarks, a State Department spokesperson told Insider that the Biden administration has been "sincere and steadfast in pursuing a path of meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance" to the nuclear deal and "to address the full range of concerns that we have with Iran."

"We are doing so because we know that a mutual return to compliance is in America's national interest," the spokesperson added. "We have made clear that we are prepared to return to Vienna to resume negotiations. The same could not be said of Iran. No amount of deflection can obscure that. We urge Iran to return to the negotiations soon so that we can seek to conclude this deal. As the Secretary has made clear, that opportunity will not last forever."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken in late June warned that the situation was approaching a point where it would be "very hard" to return to the standards set by the 2015 deal.

Khamenei endorsed the Vienna talks but continued to criticize the US amid the discussions. Raisi has also backed restoring the pact, but that's now appearing increasingly unlikely.

The Iran nuclear deal was orchestrated by the Obama administration, with France, the UK, China, Russia, and Germany also involved in the negotiations. The agreement aimed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal in May 2018, in a move that would push tensions between Washington and Tehran to historic heights. Iran gradually took steps away from the deal after the US pulled out, essentially abandoning it altogether after Trump ordered a drone strike that killed the top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani.

Biden vied to restore the deal once in the White House, but the US and Iran have butted heads over the path to bringing the pact back to life. Iran has insisted that the US lift sanctions before it returns to compliance, while the US has maintained that no sanctions relief will occur until Tehran demonstrations it's adhering to the deal.

The Vienna talks began in April, and there were early signs of progress. Iran's move to stall the negotiations, however, has raised alarm bells among Western powers eager to revive the deal.

French foreign ministry spokesperson Agnes von der Muhll in comments to reporters earlier this week warned Iran that it was walking a path that could lead to the collapse of the talks and any hope of restoring the deal - formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). "If it continues on this path, not only will it continue to delay when an agreement to lift sanctions can be reached, but it risks jeopardising the very possibility of concluding the Vienna talks and restoring the JCPOA," she said.

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