Indirect negotiations between the US and Iran to revive the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, are on pause until Ebrahim Raisi replaces Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in August. Axios reported Wednesday that US officials are warning the incoming government that it won’t get a better deal than what has already been negotiated.
It’s not clear what exactly the US and Iran have negotiated. Rouhani has said an agreement was reached for the US to lift most major sanctions, but other elements of the Iranian government denied that any sort of agreement was made. On Wednesday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the US “stubborn” in its demands of Iran and said Washington would not provide guarantees on sanctions relief or that it wouldn’t withdraw from the deal again.
Raisi is viewed as a hardliner, but he favors a revival of the JCPOA if the US returns to its commitments and lifts sanctions. Up to this point, the Biden administration has refused to lift all Trump-era sanctions on Iran, forcing Tehran to negotiate limited sanctions relief. While Raisi wants a US return to the JCPOA, he might not be as patient with Washington as Rouhani has been.
An unnamed US official told Axios that the window for reaching a deal might not be open much longer and said the new government should accept whatever offer the US gave Iran. “We also hope they don’t think they will get more than the previous government because they are tougher,” the official said. “It’s not about being tougher, it’s about fully implementing the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. The US position will not change, and the Iranians will not be able to reinvent the nuclear deal or be in a situation where they do less and we do more.”
While the US portrays Iran as the difficult party, it is Washington that violated the deal in the first place and is now making additional demands of Tehran. Khamenei said Wednesday that the US wants to add a sentence to the deal that says it requires the US and Iran to negotiate other issues, like Iran’s ballistic missile program.