Last month’s key P5+1 deal with Iran was the crowning achievement of years of diplomacy, and the Obama Administration has made much of trying to protect the deal, warning Congress against passing any new sanctions because that would violate the terms of the agreement.
But it is the administration itself that has put the deal in serious jeopardy, having imposed a series of new sanctions against Iran’s trading partners yesterday. Iran’s negotiating team is now leaving the Vienna talks and returning to Tehran, leaving open the question of whether or not the talks will resume.
Iran’s chief negotiator, Deputy FM Abbas Araqchi, explained the decision to quit the current talks was made because the US move violated “the spirit” of the P5+1 deal, which included an explicit pledge to impose no new sanctions against Iran for six months. The Iranian government is now said to be evaluating the situation and whether they can continue the talks at all.
The Obama Administration had argued the new sanctions “technically” didn’t violate the deal because they didn’t hit Iran directly, but rather a bunch of Iran’s trading partners for doing business with Iran. The administration also says the timing of the move was “coincidental.”
Yet it’s hard to see how it could be, and after repeatedly warning Congress against moves that could threaten the talks they appear to have gone out of their way to test the limits of the agreement.
EU officials say they believe the talks will resume at some point, but the damage may be done either way, and even if Iran does agree to return to the talks it will likely be with a much more skeptical eye toward the exact terms of any deal, since the US has shown itself more than willing bend their interpretation.