Yazd, Iran
Yazd, IraniStock

A recent phone conversation between Iranian and French presidents Ibrahim Raisi and Emmanuel Macron addressed the issue of nuclear negotiations, which have been stalled since their sixth round. The seventh round, which is labelled a “breakthrough round,” has yet to take place since the terms of former President Hassan Rouhani and his negotiating team ended and a new Iranian government was formed. It is planned for November 29.

Iran is not opposed to negotiations that are beneficial to it, but the agenda and outcome of the negotiations must lead to the lifting of sanctions, said Raisi in a telephone conversation with his French counterpart.

Iran does not accept “negotiation for negotiation’s sake,” he said, expressing Tehran’s willingness to hold nuclear talks, but not under Western pressure. The diplomatic moves and phone contacts are part of a “pulse check” with the new Iranian administration.

Many experts believe that criticism of the Afghanistan withdrawal will only end if the president is able to revive the Iran nuclear deal.
The US may want to rush the seventh round, with repeated remarks by US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley that the Biden administration cannot “wait forever” until Iran decides on a return to the nuclear deal.

But Washington, which expected the round to take place in mid-September, did not set a “red line” or a deadline for negotiations. Any pretexts the mullahs could use ended with the announcement of the formation of the government and the approval of parliament.

For its part, the Russian side noted the mullahs’ procrastination in cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Therefore, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called on Tehran to show understanding and make further efforts in this regard. He considered that the pause in the Vienna negotiations has been long.

And he called on Western capitals to adopt what he described as a balanced and responsible approach and not to act as in the past to avoid complicating the situation. Russia was able, on a rare occasion, to show its willingness to provide support to break the deadlock in the Vienna negotiations.

Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, announced Moscow’s readiness for dialogue with Washington on a return to the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

The announcement was made in response to the Sept. 7-10 visit of US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley to Moscow and Paris for consultations on a return to the Iran nuclear deal, the State Department said.

In fact, the Biden administration appears to be in a very critical position on several external issues, including the Iranian nuclear file. It must resolve this issue by any means necessary to achieve a breakthrough that makes up for the string of foreign policy failures of recent months.

Many experts believe that criticism of the Afghanistan withdrawal will only end if the president is able to revive the Iran nuclear deal with a promise or if he addresses Iran’s nuclear and missile threats in a way that neutralizes and reduces them in the foreseeable future, at the very least.

The real problem facing the Biden administration in negotiating with the Iranian mullahs is that the mullahs realize that the White House is at a very difficult strategic impasse.

They will try to push as hard as they can to extract major concessions from the US once negotiations on the nuclear deal are agreed to resume. It may be that the US negotiating team is willing to give the mullahs what they want given the circumstances and balances of the negotiating environment.

US envoy Robert Malley’s visit to Russia now may suggest that Washington is seeking to safeguard the negotiations by any means, perhaps at any cost. There is nothing better than Russia, the mullahs’ closest friend, to help Washington in these circumstances.

The hard-line mullahs currently at the helm of the Iranian landscape are banking on what they describe as the defeat of the US as one of the most serious obstacles to the resumption of the Vienna negotiations.

The mullahs see the US withdrawal from Afghanistan as in their interest and seek to establish a new regional strategic reality that strengthens their influence after the US exit from Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the lack of US strategic alternatives to address these challenges and the absence of a Plan B other than lifting new sanctions weakens the US negotiating position and encourages the Iranian mullahs to prevaricate in order to exhaust US diplomacy, which could prompt them to make new concessions to the mullahs if negotiations resume.

Iran’s new negotiating strategy is based on firmness, indifference to sanctions against Tehran, and a desire to buy as much time as possible before agreeing to a deal, so that President Biden’s position weakens and Iran’s position strengthens under the blow of accelerated uranium enrichment.

The latest IAEA reports indicate that Iran has about 10 kilograms of 60 percent enriched uranium. The agency reported in mid-August that Iran had accelerated uranium enrichment to a rate close to that needed to make a nuclear weapon.

Dr. Salem AlKetbi is a UAE political analyst and former UAE Federal National Council candidate.