The sixth round of indirect negotiations between the US and Iran to revive the nuclear deal are underway in Vienna. Iran says the two sides are close to reaching an agreement, but the US continues to throw cold water on Tehran’s optimism.
When asked about the talks on Thursday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said he had no “time frame” on when the sixth round might conclude. “We have been able to achieve some progress but challenges remain,” he said. “I don’t have a time frame for the sixth round of talks.”
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said Thursday that issues remain but that the two sides are “closer than ever” to reaching a deal. “We achieved good, tangible progress on the different issues …. we are closer than ever to an agreement, but there are still essential issues under negotiations,” he said.
Araqchi said Iran’s presidential elections that are being held Friday would not have an impact on the negotiations. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is not running again and will step down on August 3rd.
Rouhani is expected to be replaced by a more hardline candidate. His potential replacements are portrayed by Western media as opponents of the JCPOA. But the fact is, even the most hardline elements in Iran favor a return to the deal if the US lifts the sanctions that have been imposed since the Trump administration left the agreement.
So far, the Biden administration has refused to lift all Trump-era sanctions, so the two sides are negotiating what sanctions the US will lift. The fact that Iran is negotiating this is a major concession. Rouhani’s replacement might be less patient with the US, but it will ultimately still be up to President Biden to salvage the JCPOA.