National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Friday that the indirect talks between the US and Iran that are ongoing in Vienna are in an “unclear place.” The two sides are trying to negotiate a revival of the Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
“I’m not going to characterize the substance of the negotiations at this point because they are in … an unclear place,” Sullivan said at an Aspen Security Forum webinar.
“We’ve seen willingness of all sides, including the Iranians, to talk seriously about sanctions relief restrictions and a pathway back into the JCPOA,” he said. “But it is still uncertain as to whether this will culminate in a deal in Vienna.”
Iran has been clear that it is willing to return to the nuclear limits set by the JCPOA if the US returns to the agreement by lifting all sanctions that were imposed after the Trump administration withdrew from the deal in 2018. But the Biden administration refuses to lift all Trump-era sanctions, greatly complicating the process.
A report from The Associated Press on Thursday said the US was considering a “near wholesale rollback” of the more stringent Trump sanctions. But publicly, Biden officials have been vague about what they are willing to lift.
The US likes to portray Iran as the difficult party, but the fact that Tehran is negotiating is a major concession in itself. The US is the party that violated the JCPOA and has the power to revive the agreement at any time by lifting Trump’s sanctions. But President Biden doesn’t seem willing to stand up to the Iran hawks in Washington and Israel, so the future of the agreement is uncertain.