Nuclear talks with Iran are set to resume this week in Qatar

Negotiations between Iran and world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal are set to resume this week in the Qatari capital Doha after talks stalled in March, a Biden administration spokesman said Monday.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said there would be “indirect talks” in Doha this week.

“We are grateful to our EU partners who continue to deliver messages and work to move these negotiations forward,” the spokesman said.

The US remains ready to agree and implement a mutual return to the 2015 agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but Iran must abandon demands that go beyond the deal’s parameters, the spokesman said.

“We stand ready to immediately conclude and implement the mutual return agreement negotiated in Vienna to fully implement the JCPOA. But for that, Iran must decide to drop its additional demands that go beyond the JCPOA,” the spokesman said.

The Iranian UN mission and the Qatari embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Robert Malley, the US special envoy for the Iran nuclear talks, met EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Brussels ahead of the indirect talks with Iran. During his stay in Doha, Malley will also meet Qatar’s foreign minister, the foreign ministry spokesman confirmed.

Borrell signaled on Saturday that negotiations would resume after a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Tehran.

“There are decisions that have to be made in Tehran and in Washington. But we agreed today that this visit will be followed by the resumption of negotiations…to try and resolve the remaining outstanding issues,” Borrell said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian said Iran was “ready to resume talks in the coming days” and urged Washington to take “responsible and committed action” to ensure Iran reaps the benefits of sanctions relief under the… fully exploited under the 2015 nuclear deal.

It was the first time negotiations were held in Qatar. Earlier nuclear talks took place in Vienna.

Designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the JCPOA imposed severe restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for an easing of US and international economic sanctions. But former President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal in 2018, reimposed sanctions and introduced hundreds of additional sanctions on Iran.

Since the US withdrawal, Iran has steadily expanded its uranium enrichment work beyond the limits set out in the agreement. Iran now effectively has enough fissile material to build a nuclear bomb, according to US officials and arms control experts.

The Biden administration has tried to revive the deal, and negotiations came close to an agreement before March. But Tehran has demanded that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be removed from a US terror blacklist, a move the White House considers outside the scope of the original 2015 deal.

The sanctions were imposed on the IRGC by the Trump administration.

It is a positive sign that negotiations are resuming, but there is no sign of an impending breakthrough or an innovative proposal that could break the diplomatic impasse, said Ali Vaez, Iran project leader at think tank International Crisis Group.

“I’m not expecting much from this round,” said Vaez.

News of the planned nuclear talks followed the dismissal of one of Iran’s most powerful figures, Hossein Taeb, the IRGC’s intelligence chief.

The IRGC announced Taeb’s extraordinary dismissal last week without explaining why he was forced into office after 13 years. Taeb was a senior Shia cleric and was replaced by an IRGC officer, General Mohammad Kazemi. With Taeb’s departure, there are now no more clerics in the IRGC’s top leadership positions.

In recent years, Iran has suffered a series of serious security shortcomings, including the assassination of prominent Iranian nuclear scientists, the assassination in May of a senior military officer and the theft of sensitive nuclear documents. Iran blamed Israel for the incidents and announced retaliation.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet alluded to Israeli covert operations in an interview with the New York Times last week.

Bennet said if Iranians “beat us by proxy or directly, they will pay a price”.

“Turns out these guys are more vulnerable than they seem,” Bennet added. “The Iranian regime is rotten, corrupt – and incompetent.” Nuclear talks with Iran are set to resume this week in Qatar

Joshua Buckhalter

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