In Vienna, tense diplomatic reunion around Iranian nuclear power

See Vienna again. This was for months the hope of the chanceries involved in the rescue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), the Iranian nuclear agreement signed in 2015. In the spring, six rounds of negotiations took place. were held in the Austrian capital with representatives from Tehran, with a dual objective: the return of the regime within the strict framework of its obligations under the agreement; the American return to the JCPoA, with the gradual lifting of economic sanctions on Iran. Monday, November 29, after a six-month hiatus, diplomats will finally meet in Vienna, in an atmosphere of generalized pessimism.

The election of the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raïssi to the Iranian presidency in June marked a break in a process deemed promising by the participants. Under the pretext of putting in place a new team of negotiators, Tehran has continued to employ delaying maneuvers, while continuing its operational flight. In nine months, the ambition of Europeans and Americans has been radically revised downwards. Originally, the allies hoped to rehabilitate the JCPoA, then broaden the discussion with the Iranians to regional security, that is to say in priority to their ballistic program. This extremely optimistic plan seems far away.

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Hypothesis of a “JCPoA less”

Today, these same countries are considering the hypothesis of a “JCPoA less”, an intermediate agreement, for fear of the void that would be a failure in Vienna. This formula would be based on a give and take: Iran would cease the most controversial activities of its program (production of uranium metal, enrichment to 20% and more), in exchange for the lifting of part of the sanctions. Such a temporary compromise, for which the regime expresses no public interest, would prevent a further escalation with Iran: the imposition of additional sanctions, or even air or cyber attacks against its sites. In the latter area, which allows for denial, Israel has already taken the lead, experts say. The Jewish state has communicated to Washington its fierce opposition to such an agreement, which it believes would reward the ultraconservative regime.

Diplomatic contacts multiplied ahead of this meeting in Vienna. On November 18, in Riyadh, the political directors of E3 (France, Germany, United Kingdom) and the American special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, held consultations with the Gulf Cooperation Council, its Member States, Egypt and Jordan. On November 23, State Department spokesman Ned Price reiterated America’s wish to see “This Iranian government should present itself at least to Vienna, being ready to participate in these discussions with the other members of the P5 + 1 in good faith, seeking to build on the progress made during the previous meetings”.

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In Vienna, tense diplomatic reunion around Iranian nuclear power

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