Although Biden officials are downplaying the progress made by indirect negotiations with Iran aimed at reviving the nuclear deal, a wave of diplomatic activity and US visits to the Middle East is fueling speculation in Western media that an agreement could be reached sooner than Washington is letting on.
Several US officials headed to the Middle East this week to consult with Arab allies, including Senators Chris Coons and Chris Murphy, two Democrats who favor a revival of the JCPOA.
A delegation of senior Israeli officials visited Washington last week to voice their concern over a US return to the agreement. On Friday, President Biden reportedly told the head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency that the US “has a long way to go” before it reaches an agreement on reviving the JCPOA. Also on Friday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said talks with Iran were in an “unclear place.”
While the Biden administration’s comments do not suggest a deal will be reached soon, reports in Iranian media over the weekend said progress was made over what sanctions the US was willing to lift. On Sunday, Iranian media reported on a possible prisoner exchange with the US. But the US denied both reports, and a State Department official said, “we are not at the cusp of any breakthrough.”
The biggest obstacle to reviving the JCPOA is the Biden administration, which refuses to lift all Trump-era sanctions on Iran. The two sides are currently negotiating what sanctions the US will lift and what would be enough relief for Iran to agree. While there is speculation a deal could be reached soon, there’s still a chance that the US will not be willing to give Tehran the sanctions relief it needs, and the opportunity for diplomacy will be wasted.