‘Difficult’ EU talks in Iran
EU coordinator Enrique Mora is holding meetings in Iran to try overcome impasse to restore nuclear pact; trip comes as IAEA says Iran stockpile of 60% enriched uranium of significant concern
An official involved with the visit of European Union Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora to Iran to try to salvage a deal to restore the nuclear pact described the mission as hard.
“Difficult,” the official, speaking not for attribution to describe how the EU delegation’s meetings in Iran were going, said today (May 12).
The EU coordinator’s Iran work trip comes after talks on restoring full US and Iranian implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear pact have been at an impasse since March over an Iranian demand that the United States remove Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from a U.S. terror black list. The Biden administration has indicated it would only do so if Iran agrees to some reciprocal commitment.
It also comes as the UN atomic watchdog said Wednesday that Iran had amassed a stockpile of 42 kilograms of uranium enriched up to 60% purity.
“This is an unprecedented level of enrichment for a non-nuclear weapons state party to the [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty], and it is cause for serious concern,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi said in a report to the European Parliament on Wednesday (May 11).
EU coordinator Mora met with lead Iranian nuclear negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri-Kani, on Wednesday (May 11), and was expected to be in Iran until Friday, according to Iranian media reports.
“Traveling again to Tehran for meetings…on the Vienna talks and other issues,” Mora said on Twitter May 11. “Work on closing the remaining gaps of the negotiation continues.”
Mora’s trip overlapped with that of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on a one-day visit to Iran today (May 12).
“The existing problems in the region must be settled through constructive dialogue,” the Qatari emir Al Thani said at a joint press conference with Raisi.
“During our talks, we discussed major regional issues, especially the issue of Yemen,” Raisi said. The two leaders also said they discussed Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Israel/Palestine, Iranian media reports said.
Several nuclear non-proliferation experts and advocates of restoring the Iran nuclear deal say the Biden administration should bite the bullet and delist the IRGC from the State Department foreign terror organization (FTO) list in order to roll Iran’s nuclear program back, even at the risk of inevitable political blowback--or soon face a far more serious Iran nuclear crisis.
“Biden can pay a price for lifting the FTO, which I understand is politically challenging,” Kelsey Davenport, director of nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, said at a panel hosted by the National Iranian American Council on May 10. “…Or he can pay a far higher price for being the president that allowed Iran to come to the brink of a nuclear weapon, or started a war to try and stop that.”
“It's far preferable to pay a cost for lifting the FTO,” Davenport continued. “We have other tools to address regional tensions with Iran….We have other tools to push back against the IRGC. We don't have another good option to address the nuclear crisis.”
The Biden “administration is going to pay a political price for rejoining the JCPOA no matter what,” sanctions expert Tyler Cullis, with Ferrari & Associates, told the NIAC panel, referring to the acronym for the formal name of the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “That political price was built in to the manner in which Trump withdrew from the JCPOA and re-imposed sanctions on Iran….
“The Biden administration if it wants to rejoin the JCPOA is going to have to bite the bullet and pay a political cost for doing so,” Cullis continued. “Because opponents are going to attack them … The IRGC issue is just the latest proxy in this fight.”
Meantime, IRGC commander Hossein Salami seemed to threaten that the paramilitary Basiji militia would crack down on Iranians protesting recent price hikes.
“We are doing a surgery on our economy, and it definitely causes difficulties,” Salami reportedly said. “I ask the Basij to rush to people’s help, as the enemy is waiting for us to show weakness to take advantage.”
Diplomatic is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.