According to a report from Axios, the US wants to finish its negotiations with Iran to revive the nuclear deal before Iran’s new president comes into office. Iranians went to the polls on Friday, and current President Hassan Rouhani will step down on August 3rd to make way for a new government.
“If we don’t have a deal before a new government is formed, I think that would raise serious questions about how achievable it’s going to be,” an unnamed US official told Axios.
The indirect talks between the US and Iran have been ongoing since April. The progress has been slow because the Biden administration refuses to lift all Trump-era sanctions. Now, the two sides are negotiating what sanctions the US will lift and what would be acceptable relief for Tehran.
Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative Iranian judge who is subject to sanctions, is expected to win Iran’s election. Raisi is seen as a close ally of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and might have a tougher approach with the US.
Iran is already making a significant concession to the US by negotiating limited sanctions relief, but a more hardline president might not be as patient with the US. Although they may have a tougher approach, Iran’s hardliners ultimately favor a revival of the JCPOA if the US lifts sanctions, so it is still up to the US to salvage the deal.
While both the US and Iran tried to downplay the impact the presidential elections would have on the JCPOA talks, the UN’s nuclear watchdog is insisting that a deal can’t be reached until the new president comes into office. “Everyone knows that, at this point, it will be necessary to wait for the new Iranian government,” IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said.
The US and Iran are currently in their sixth round of indirect talks. On Thursday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said there was no “time frame” for how long the sixth round will last. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the two sides are “closer than ever” to reaching a deal, but issues still remain.