US remains involved in Iran deal at UN, prepares “for a while” for Plan B

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Amid speculation about a possibility during the ongoing United Nations General Assembly to continue stalled efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the State Department has said News week that the United States would remain involved in the matter while preparing for a potentially unsuccessful outcome.

Both US President Joe Biden and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi are scheduled to address the annual UN meeting. With their delegations both in New York, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani told reporters in Tehran on Monday that talks to restore full US-Iran compliance with the nuclear pact known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), were a possibility.

Kanaani noted that Ali Bagheri Kani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, would attend the General Assembly and while “there is no specific plan to discuss the nuclear deal”, the spokesman would “raise the possibility of talks on the nuclear deal.” don’t rule out.” agreement.”

A Foreign Ministry spokesman also said: News week that the US side “had no meetings to look ahead”, but US chief nuclear negotiator, Rob Malley, who serves as Biden’s special representative for Iran, “is in close consultation with our European allies and our allies and partners in the Middle East about Iran, including the JCPOA.”

“The United States will continue JCPOA talks as long as we believe it is in the interest of US national security,” the spokesman said, “but the administration, along with our allies, is preparing equally for scenarios with and without a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA.”

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In this combination photo, President Joe Biden makes remarks at an event on September 2, 2022 in Washington, DC, and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks at a press conference in Tehran on August 29.
Win McNamee/TBEN/Getty Images

The JCPOA, which lifts international sanctions against Iran in exchange for severe restrictions on the country’s nuclear program, was widely hailed as a diplomatic milestone by China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, the US and the UK. But Washington withdrew from the deal under President Donald Trump, reimposed sanctions and sparked serious geopolitical tensions between the US and Iran.

Biden, who was President Barack Obama’s vice president when the JCPOA was first reached, pledged to work to restore U.S. participation in the agreement in exchange for Iran’s restoration of compliance. But after more than a year and a half of negotiations in Austria’s capital Vienna, a mutually acceptable settlement has yet to be reached, even after a “final” draft proposal was submitted by the European Union in July and reviewed by US and Iranian officials last month.

And now the deal is on the agenda for bilateral talks on the sidelines of the recently convened UN General Assembly in New York City, where the deal was discussed by Raisi and European Union President Charles Michel in a meeting also was attended by Bagheri, Iran’s leader negotiator. The EU has played a coordinating role in the implementation of the JCPOA and the efforts to restore it.

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Raisi took the opportunity to declare Iran’s right to seek lasting assurances that the US would not fulfill its obligations again.

“It was the Americans who withdrew from the agreement and other European countries failed to fulfill their obligations to Iran,” Raisi said, according to his office, “so Iran has the right to demand confidence-building guarantees.”

He said lifting the sanctions was a precondition for a solution to their dispute.

“If the security issues are not resolved, what guarantee will there be that the three European countries will again propose and pursue a resolution against the Islamic Republic of Iran the day after the agreement?” Raisi rhetorically asked, “Therefore, Iran’s demands to resolve security issues are perfectly reasonable.”

Raisi also discussed the matter with French President Emmanuel Macron. Here again, the Iranian leader defended Tehran’s demands for guarantees against future non-compliance by the US and the West, and he also raised the issue of an pending dispute with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has insisted called for an investigation into alleged nuclear residue identified at nuclear sites in Iran.

“The agency’s approach should be technical and away from pressure and suggestions from others,” Raisi said, “and we believe that it is not possible to reach an agreement without closing the Iranian affairs.”

In 2019, Macron reportedly tried to arrange a last-minute talk between Trump and Raisi’s predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, in a failed attempt to get the JCPOA back on track. — but to no avail.

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Also on Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani spoke about the nuclear issue.

Qatar has played a key role in facilitating diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Talking to Iran’s top diplomat, Sheikh Mohammed said in a tweet that the pair “discussed ways to strengthen bilateral relations and the latest developments in negotiations to return to the Joint Action Plan with the US”.

“I look forward to our joint efforts in this regard,” he added, alongside a photo of the two men.

Amir-Abdollahian also met separately with the foreign ministers of Lebanon and South Korea, whose deputy foreign minister last week discussed the JCPOA and other Iran-related issues with Malley.

The issue was also raised by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in his address to the UN General Assembly.

“We in Qatar believe in the need to reach a just agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that allays the fears of all parties, guarantees that the region is a nuclear-weapon-free zone, and the right of the Iranian people to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” Sheikh Tamim told the international meeting.

And while both Washington and Tehran have warned that they would be prepared for an eventuality in which no resolution was reached, the Qatari royal family stressed that “no one has an alternative to such an agreement, and reaching it would be in the interest of security.” and stability of the region, and will open the door to a wider dialogue at regional security level.”

This is a news item in development. More information will be added as it becomes available.

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