Talks between Iran and other signatories to the JCPOA resumed in Vienna on Thursday after an apparent Israeli attack on the Islamic Republic’s Natanz nuclear facility that was likely an effort to sabotage the talks. US officials are also in Vienna and are participating in the negotiations through intermediaries.
Iran responded to the Natanz attack by announcing it will begin enriching some uranium at 60 percent, a move the US condemned as “provocative.” But the US has not condemned the sabotage at the Natanz facility. While the US said it was not involved in the incident, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was in Israel when it happened and vowed “ironclad” commitment to the country.
The Vienna talks began last week and established two working groups. One group is figuring how the US can rejoin the JCPOA, and the other is in charge of determining what actions Tehran needs to take to satisfy the US enough to return to compliance by lifting sanctions.
The details of what exactly was discussed on Thursday are not known, but Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, said after the talks that the “general impression is positive” despite the Israeli sabotage. Ulyanov said Thursday’s talks “will be followed by a number of informal meetings in different formats, including at expert level.”
While many participants have said the talks are making progress, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that, so far, most US proposals “are not worth looking at.”
The US has the power to restore the deal at any time by lifting all Trump-era sanctions. But Biden administration officials have indicated they are not willing to do so. Last week, a US official said, “If Iran sticks to the position that every sanction that has been imposed since 2017 has to be lifted or there will be no deal, then we are heading towards an impasse.”