US officials are “highly skeptical” that renewed talks with Iran will revive the nuclear deal and are discussing imposing harsh penalties against Tehran, CNN reported on Friday.
On Tuesday, Iran said it was ready to return to indirect negotiations with the US in Vienna to revive the nuclear deal. Iran didn’t specify a date, but the EU said Friday that it is working on setting one.
Despite Tehran’s willingness to restart talks, US officials are saying that they don’t think Iran is serious about reviving the deal. One US official told CNN that Iran’s public statement didn’t “give us a huge amount of optimism.”
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Thursday that it’s not “entirely clear” to him “whether the Iranians are prepared” to restart negotiations. “We have heard positive signals that they are but I think we have to wait and see when and whether they actually show up in the negotiating table,” he said.
While US officials claim Tehran is not serious about the talks, the fact is, the Biden administration is to blame for the failure to revive the JCPOA at this point. During the initial round of negotiations that lasted from April to June, Biden refused to lift all Trump-era sanctions, forcing Iran to negotiate limited sanctions relief.
The talks concluded on June 20th with the two sides far apart on key issues. Iran wanted a guarantee from the US that it wouldn’t withdraw from the JCPOA again as the Trump administration did in 2018, and a recent report from Responsible Statecraft revealed that Biden wouldn’t even commit to staying in the JCPOA during his first term in office.
The government of Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi has been reviewing the initial round of talks and has good reason to believe the US is not serious about giving Iran enough sanctions relief based on Biden’s hardline stance. On top of that, the US has maintained virtually all Trump-era sanctions and continues to impose new ones.
The CNN report cited sources in Washington that said there is an “ongoing” debate within the Biden administration over how to increase pressure on Iran. President Biden is expected to discuss potential steps with the European signatories to the JCPOA — the UK, France, and Germany — in Rome on Saturday.