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Iran blinks first, but real challenge still ahead for nuclear talks

CM 02/04/2021 2


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While trying to sound tough, Iran has blinked again in the nuclear diplomacy battle with the United States.The announcement late Thursday night that the Islamic Republic will hold a virtual meeting with England, France, Germany, China and Russia to strategize how it and the US can return to the 2015 nuclear deal, shows Tehran is feeling pressure to show some flexibility.At the same time, all the current brinkmanship is only about the negotiations “liftoff,” and does not fully get into the all-important “landing” as US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken explained recently.Israel will need to watch maneuvers at both stages even if it seems that the US may temporarily have the upper-hand with the ayatollahs.Until now, Tehran’s position has been that there is no need for negotiations and has rejected three offers by the US to restart direct talks.Rather, it has said that all that is needed is the US to lift all economic sanctions and then Iran will return to the deal’s nuclear limits.This would give the Islamic Republic all the leverage it needs to prevent any follow-on negotiations to lengthen and strengthen the deal as the Biden administration has said it is committed to doing.The Islamic Republic can take its time; estimates are that it will take a few months to sell off its excess enriched uranium.It can also try to keep some additional advanced centrifuges it has developed in violation of the nuclear deal, even if they are temporarily and nominally disassembled.Because of these issues, Washington has insisted on a sequenced return of both sides to the deal.This would allow the US to hold some sanctions relief off until the ayatollahs agree to follow-on negotiations to a set time limit by which the US could snap back sanctions if Iran refuses lengthening and strengthening the deal.Iran’s agreement to negotiate with the US, through the other five powers, shows Iran President Hassan Rouhani is worried he is running out of time to secure at least some kind of interim deal before his country’s elections in June.It is a face-saving move by saying they are not negotiating directly with the US until it is closer to returning to the deal – but make no mistake – it means all sides are negotiating regardless of who might be tuning in virtually.It should not surprise observers that Iran flinched first.Before Biden took office, Iran gave him only a few weeks to meet all of its demands, which back then included paying compensation and giving up the power to snapback sanctions, then setting a new deadline of a few weeks later, which has also come and gone.Iran also mostly ignored a deadline it set to stop IAEA inspections, reaching a face-saving deal in which it reduced inspections just by a little, but in which the IAEA is still getting to see progress in all key facilities and continues to provide regular updates of new Iranian violations. Negotiating a sequenced return by both sides without direct meetings between the US and Iran may be the formula for reaching some kind of interim framework (“the takeoff”) for eventually reaching a new deal and add-on deal (the “landing”) in late 2021 or mid-2022, before US midterm elections.Jerusalem needs to be careful not to become overconfident about Tehran caving first.All of this is still only about the framework for negotiations and the Islamic Republic is at its best playing this late diplomacy game, pulling out new demands when the other side is too committed to simply walk away.The Biden administration can take some credit for maintaining its sanctions leverage over Iran up until this point, and Iran’s blinking is a good beginning.But the hard work is just starting.
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CM

The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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