US President Joe Biden’s Administration is planning to put forth a new proposal to jump-start talks with Iran as soon as this week, two people familiar with the situation told Politico on Monday.
According to the report, the proposal asks Iran to halt some of its nuclear activities, such as work on advanced centrifuges and the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity, in exchange for some relief from US economic sanctions.
The details of the proposal are still being worked out, one of the sources told Politico.
It is not at all certain that Iran will accept the terms. Earlier this year, Tehran rejected a US proposal it deemed unacceptable, then offered its own idea that Biden’s team declared a non-starter, two people familiar with the situation said.
According to Politico, officials in both countries are aware that if no breakthrough takes place over the next few weeks, little is likely to happen until September at the earliest.
One reason for a sense of urgency among some US officials as well as those outside American government is that Iran holds presidential elections in June, with campaign season kicking off in May. The politics surrounding the 2015 nuclear agreement are very sensitive in Iran, so the regime there is unlikely to allow any major moves on it amid a campaign.
Separately, an important temporary agreement that Iran reached with the International Atomic Energy Agency will expire in late May. That temporary agreement paused Iran’s effort to curtail the IAEA’s access to Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The American proposal slated to be set forth this week is, “more than anything, about trying to get the conversation started” between the United States and Iran, one of the people familiar with the situation said.
Asked for comment, a senior Biden administration official declined to discuss details of diplomatic conversations.
“We have been clear that we are ready to pursue a mutual return to the [Iran deal],” the official added. “We have also been open that we are talking with our [international] partners … about the best way to achieve this, including through a series of initial, mutual steps. We have been looking at options for doing so, including with indirect conversations through our European partners.”
Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal in response to former US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018.
Biden has expressed a desire to return to the deal but has stressed that Iran must resume compliance with it before any negotiations on a US return to the agreement.
The US recently accepted Europe's offer to mediate conversations with Iran regarding the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran, however, rejected the proposal, claiming that the “time was not right” to hold such talks.
Last week, 43 US senators from both parties sent Biden a letter in which they wrote that an international agreement with Iran should address issues beyond just Tehran’s nuclear program.