Biden’s team of three negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran as the US isn’t tough enough – as diplomats warn talks are entering a critical phase
- Iran’s senior negotiator resigns amid reports of policy differences
- State Department official confirmed on Tuesday that Richard’s nephew was standing down
- He was the US Deputy Special Envoy for Iran and was known as the Sanctions Architect
- The nephew, who wanted Biden to take a tougher stand against Iran, has reportedly been avoiding meetings in Vienna since December
- At the same time, reports emerged that two other interlocutors had left.
- It comes at a crucial time in talks between the West and Tehran.
- Iran rejects talk of an interim deal and wants a legal guarantee that the US will not walk away from the nuclear deal
- It will also not negotiate directly with the US, with European middlemen.
a top member of the US team negotiating with Iran He has left the role after being urged to take a tougher stance on nuclear talks.
A State Department official confirmed that Richard Nephew, known as the architect of sanctions on Tehran, had stepped down as the US deputy special envoy for Iran.
At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reported that two other negotiators stepped aside because they wanted a tougher negotiating position.
The team’s policy differences reportedly include enforcing existing sanctions and even pulling out of talks altogether as Iran expands its nuclear program.
His departure, another blow to President Joe Biden’s foreign policy goals and a State Department grappling with Russian diplomats prepared for conflict in Ukraine, comes at a critical time in talks that resumed two months ago.
Western diplomats say they expect a breakthrough in the coming weeks – but significant differences remain between the two sides and Britain on Tuesday warned of an impending standoff.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is grappling with criticism that it has taken a much softer stance against Iran than Republicans at home.
A State Department official declined to comment on the specifics of internal policy discussions.
A State Department official confirmed that Richard Nephew was no longer Deputy Special Envoy for Iran, but was still working at the State Department
Nuclear talks resumed in Vienna, Austria, in November but little progress has been made. Iran has refused to speak directly to US negotiators. As a result European diplomats have to communicate between different rooms but the effort stalls.
The Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, saying its destabilizing influence in the Middle East and the development of rocket technology dissuaded Iran
“The previous administration left us with dire choices on Iran,” he said.
‘Maximum pressure failed, leaving Iran with a rapidly expanding nuclear program and a more aggressive regional posture. At the same time, we were separated from many of our closest allies and partners.
‘Getting out of this crisis requires making a number of difficult, finely balanced decisions on which there can be reasonable disagreements.’
The nephew, who wanted Biden to take a tougher stand against Iran, has reportedly been avoiding meetings in Vienna since December.
That same month, senior US officials involved in the talks began pushing for an end after Iran sent in a new negotiating team, which retracted from most of the concessions made by its previous officials, sources close to the discussions told the Journal. told.
Negotiations on returning to the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by the Trump administration resumed last year in Vienna under the direction of Antony Blinken’s State Department.
However, they have been complicated by Tehran’s refusal to speak directly to US officials. Instead, communication between different rooms is turned off by European diplomats.
But with the clock ticking, Western officials fear it is only a few weeks before Iran has the materials and information to produce enough fuel for a nuclear bomb.
The result was reportedly a difference of opinion within the US team about whether to halt talks in the event of Iran dragging its feet and how strongly to enforce existing sanctions.
Under the terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, sanctions were lifted in exchange for the extent of Iran’s nuclear program.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told lawmakers on Tuesday that talks were “reaching a dangerous impasse” and told Iran it would have to decide whether it wanted a deal
When President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions in 2018, Iran returned to enriching uranium.
The Biden administration believes a return to the 2015 deal is the best way forward.
Iran says it also wants to return to the deal, but has meanwhile rejected talk of an interim deal and wants a legal guarantee that the US will not back away from the JCPOA.
The British Foreign Secretary explained the scale of the problem on Tuesday.
‘This conversation is urgent and progress has not been fast enough. We continue to work in close partnership with our partners but talks are reaching an alarming impasse,’ Liz Truss told British Parliament.
Iran must now choose whether it wants to terminate a deal or be responsible for the collapse of the JCPOA.
‘And if the JCPOA collapses, all options are on the table.’