What are the discussions on Iranian nuclear about?


Negotiations to bring the United States back to a landmark nuclear deal with Iran resumed Thursday in Vienna amid signs of progress – but also in the shadow of an attack this week on Iran’s main nuclear facility.

WHAT CASE ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

In 2015, Iran signed an agreement with the United States, Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain that sought to set limits on Tehran’s nuclear program in order to prevent it from build a nuclear weapon – which he insists he does not want. do.

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In return, Iran received relief from the sanctions imposed by these powers, notably on its oil exports and its access to the global banking system. Iran was allowed to continue its nuclear program for civilian purposes, with strict limits on the amount of uranium it could enrich, the purity with which it could enrich it, and other measures.

Prior to the deal, conservative estimates were that Iran was within five to six months of being able to produce a bomb, while some feared it would be within two to three months. With the safeguards of the agreement in place, this “break-up time” has been estimated to be over a year.

FILE - In this April 10, 2021 file photo released by the official website of the Office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani, second from right, listens to Iranian Atomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi in visiting an exhibition of the new nuclear achievements in Tehran, Iran.  Negotiations to bring the United States back to the historic nuclear deal with Iran resume on Thursday, April 15.  The question is how to revive a 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers that sought to set limits on Tehran's nuclear program in order to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon.  (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP, file)

FILE – In this April 10, 2021 file photo released by the official website of the Office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani, second from right, listens to Iranian Atomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi in visiting an exhibition of the new nuclear achievements in Tehran, Iran. Negotiations to bring the United States back to the historic nuclear deal with Iran resume on Thursday, April 15. The question is how to revive a 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers to set limits on Tehran’s nuclear program in order to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon. (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP, file)

But in 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the deal, criticizing clauses that ease restrictions on Iran in stages – and also that the deal would end up expire and that Iran would be allowed to do whatever it wanted with its nuclear technology. He also said it had to be renegotiated to address Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional influence such as support from militant groups.

The crippling US sanctions that followed wreaked havoc on the Iranian economy – but failed to bring Tehran back to the table to expand the deal as Trump wanted. Instead, Tehran has steadily exceeded limits set by the agreement to pressure the remaining members for economic relief.

In February, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said of Iran’s estimated escape time that “we’ve fallen to three or four months and we’re headed in the wrong direction.”

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So what are we talking about now?

US President Joe Biden has said he wants to join the deal, but Iran must reverse its violations.

The European Union has called the talks in the hope of doing so. Although an American delegation is present in Vienna, it does not meet directly with Iran. Instead, diplomats from other countries commute between the two camps.

As talks approached, which began last week, Iran has said it is ready to return to full compliance with the deal, but the United States should first drop all sanctions imposed under Trump. .

It’s complicated, however. The Trump administration has also added sanctions against Iran outside of those related to its nuclear program, including for allegations of terrorism, human rights violations and the country’s ballistic missile program.

FILE - In this archive photo from Saturday, January 15, 2011, part of the Arak heavy water nuclear facilities is seen, near the central city of Arak, 250 kilometers southwest of the capital Tehran, in Iran.  In a statement following a virtual meeting on Friday, April 2, 2021, the chairman of a group of senior officials from the European Union, China, France, Germany, Russia, Great Britain and Iran told participants "underlined their commitment to preserve the JCPOA and discussed modalities to ensure the return to its full and effective implementation." (AP Photo / Fars News Agency, Mehdi Marizad, file)

FILE – In this archive photo from Saturday, January 15, 2011, part of the Arak heavy water nuclear facilities is seen, near the central city of Arak, 250 kilometers southwest of the capital Tehran, in Iran. In a statement following a virtual meeting on Friday, April 2, 2021, the chairman of a group of senior officials from the European Union, China, France, Germany, Russia, Great Britain and Iran said participants “underlined their commitment to preserve the JCPOA and discussed modalities to ensure the return to its full and effective implementation.” (AP Photo / Fars News Agency, Mehdi Marizad, dossier)

Still, there are signs of hope. The talks quickly moved beyond the “who goes first” debate and have already started to go into details, said Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, an Iranian scholar at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.

“It’s a very good development that these task forces are talking and looking at the real stuff,” she told The Associated Press.

In order for Iran to return to the deal, it must revert to enriching uranium to a purity of no more than 3.67%, stop using advanced centrifuges, and drastically reduce the amount of uranium it gets. it enriches, among other things.

Despite the challenges, Tabrizi said the task at hand is not as complicated as the one the group faced in 2015, as they already have an agreement to refer to.

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How long will the discussions last?

There is no time limit specified. The diplomats involved say the issues cannot be resolved overnight, but hope for a resolution in weeks rather than months – for several reasons.

The initial deal came after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, widely regarded as a moderate, took office. Rouhani cannot run again in the upcoming June elections due to term limits, and he hopes to step down with Iran once again able to sell oil overseas and gain access to financial markets. international.

Meanwhile, the United States could face a much more difficult negotiation if it doesn’t get a deal before Rouhani leaves. Hard-line supporters in Iran reject the nuclear deal, saying it has not provided enough economic relief and is a slippery slope towards more pressure on Iran. That doesn’t necessarily mean they would end the negotiations if elected, although that would complicate matters, said Sanam Vakil, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House Institute of Policy. .

FILE - This file photo released on November 5, 2019 by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran.  Negotiations to bring the United States back to a landmark nuclear deal with Iran are set to resume Thursday, April 15, 2021 in Vienna amid signs of progress - but also in the shadow of an attack this week on Iran's main nuclear facility .  (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, file)

FILE – This file photo released on November 5, 2019 by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran. Negotiations to bring the United States back to a landmark nuclear deal with Iran are set to resume Thursday, April 15, 2021 in Vienna amid signs of progress – but also in the shadow of an attack this week on Iran’s main nuclear facility . (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, file)

There is another reason to act quickly: Iran began in February to restrict the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspections of its nuclear facilities. Instead, he said he would keep surveillance footage of the facilities for three months and turn them over to the IAEA if it got sanctions relief. Otherwise, Iran has said it will erase the records.

WHAT OBSTACLES COULD GET ON THE WAY?

A lot, as recent events have shown. Over the weekend, the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz was sabotaged. It is not known exactly what happened, but a power failure damaged centrifuges there.

The attack was widely believed to have been carried out by Israel, which opposes the nuclear deal, although local authorities have not commented.

Iran says Israel explicitly hopes to derail talks with sabotage. Rohani has said he still hopes the talks will work out – but the attack complicated matters. On the one hand, Iran responded by announcing that it would increase uranium enrichment to 60% purity – far more than ever before – and install more advanced centrifuges at the Natanz facility.

And as a result of the developments, both sides stepped up the rhetoric.

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters in the Islamic Republic on Wednesday, rejected all offers seen so far in Vienna as “not worth it. be examined “. Still, he said he trusted his negotiators.

Blinken, meanwhile, said Washington had shown its seriousness by participating in the indirect talks in Vienna, but with Tehran’s recent announcements, “it remains to be seen whether Iran shares that seriousness.”

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