Iran Nuclear Talks: “An important multilateral process”

SOCIETY Magazine spoke with the Ambassador of Iran to Austria, H.E. Abbas Bagherpour Ardekani, about the current status of the Vienna talks aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal and asked about the main standpoints and demands of the Iranian Government.

The talks regarding how to get back to the 2015 JCPOA/ nuclear deal, resumed on November 29, 2021. How would you describe the current status of the talks?

As you rightly said, these rounds of talks are not aimed at reaching a new nuclear agreement. Rather, they were started when the US administration announced that their former policy in withdrawing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action/JCPOA in May 2018 has been a strategic mistake and failed policy, thus expressing their intention to get back to the JCPOA. Now, the remaining participants of the JCPOA (Iran, 4+1 i.e. China, France, Russia, UK plus Germany and the EU as coordinator) are discussing how the US’ unwarranted unilateral withdrawal from the deal can be rectified and under what terms the US would be eligible to re-join the 2015 Vienna Agreement.
As Trump’s pressure campaign failed to achieve its stated goals, Mr. Biden was prompted to publicly oppose it and vow to change it. It is unfortunate, however, that Trump’s shameful legacy i.e., the inhumane sanctions against ordinary people of my country are still being continued.
These talks – as an important multilateral process – are sensitive and complicated. Different external elements may negatively or positively affect this process. We appreciate Austria’s constructive and positive role as well as its role as the host of the talks with the aim of the restoration of the integrity of the JCPOA. In our view, the most important element for this multilateral process to become successful is that all parties engaged should have genuine and serious determination to guarantee a conclusive outcome. For the Iranian part, I can confirm that this serious intention does exist.

What are the main standpoints and demands of the Iranian Government?

Let’s refresh our memory with a flashback to the underlying causes for the current situation. The JCPOA is founded on two pillars: Iran’s nuclear-related commitments and the reciprocal commitments for the lifting of the respective UN, EU and US sanctions against Iran as well as promoting normal economic and trade relations with our country. All these commitments are meticulously worded and explained in detail in the JCPOA and resolution 2231. In accordance with the JCPOA, other parties are committed “to ensure Iran’s access in areas of trade, technology, finance and energy”. Specifically, the United States, in addition to its obligation to lift sanctions against Iran, is explicitly committed, to “make best efforts in good faith to sustain this JCPOA and to prevent interference with the realization of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting”.
Iran has been fully implementing its JCPOA related commitments since 2015. The 15 consecutive reports of the Director General of the IAEA affirms this fact. While Iran was in full compliance of its commitments, the US launched what their former President called a “maximum pressure campaign” against Iran, albeit a failed one.
When the US withdrew from the deal and violated its terms and the UN Security Council resolution 2231, Iran, mostly based on the promises it received from the Europeans, maintained its part of the deal in full for more than one year, and only when it became apparent that EU/E3 are unable to rectify the shortcomings, Iran decided to cease performance of some of its commitments in a gradual manner and in accordance with its rights stipulated in the JCPOA. Ceasing performance of reciprocal commitments was the only available remedy for Iran, both based on the provisions of the JCPOA itself and on general legal principles.
The bitter fact is that, while we have been completely deprived of our benefits under the JCPOA for almost four years; some states including the Europeans were not abiding by their commitments and more regrettably, they were kept silent about the unlawful and inhumane sanctions of the United States, which have been amounted to economic terrorism against Iranian people.
Now that the US wants to rejoin the deal, they need to realize that they should address concerns arising from their past failures, the least of which is that future performance of their commitments cannot be relied on; unless it could be objectively verified. The US needs to make a decision on lifting sanctions and show its significant distance from previous failed policies. This will be possible by lifting all sanctions inconsistent with the JCPOA, in a verifiable manner as well as taking action in providing guarantees.

How important is a new agreement to Iran?

What is important for Iran, is that Iran should be able to effectively benefit from what it was promised and legitimately expected from the JCPOA. Moreover, considering the wrongdoings and failures of the United States since the JCPOA was agreed in 2015, there is a reasonable expectation to give Iran sufficient assurances that such situation will not take place again. In fact, as the United States has become known as an unreliable partner even for others, it is time for them to prove that it could be considered a reliable partner.

A deal can only be reached if all parties are willing to make sacrifices and make steps towards each other. In which areas might Iran be willing to do that?

Iran did its share of good will and sacrifice while it remained fully compliant to the JCPOA for more than one year after the US violated its commitments and withdrew from the deal in clear violation of UN Security Council resolution 2231. The existing opportunity to even discuss going back to the deal exists because Iran acted responsibly and prudently. Iran has also stated that it remains ready to go back to full compliance of its commitments whenever all parties implement their commitments in full. We, therefore, call for the full and verifiable implementation of the JCPOA. Iran has made its political decision. The main obstacle now is the lack of a political decision by the United States. Washington should be concerned about missing the existing opportunity.