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Iran Talks Resume, Gingerly, After Attack on Nuclear Site

BRUSSELS — Iran and the other signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal resumed negotiations in Vienna on Thursday to revive the accord, though the atmosphere was fraught in the aftermath of the apparent Israeli attack on a major uranium enrichment site in Iran.

Senior diplomats involved in the talks have agreed that the working groups meant to bring both Iran and the United States into compliance with the deal had made progress.

But after the meeting on Thursday, the head of China’s delegation, Wang Qun, called for a faster pace and fewer distractions.

“We do think that all these developments have reinforced our conviction that what is needed most now as a top priority is to do away with any disruptive factors and pick up the pace of negotiation here,” said Mr. Wang, China’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

said in a Twitter post that the “general impression is positive.” He said this meeting would be followed “by a number of informal meetings in different formats, including at expert level.”

The talks have been overshadowed in recent days by Iran’s response to an attack at its Natanz uranium-enrichment facility on Sunday. Tehran decided to further increase enrichment to 60 percent, a major step toward the 90 percent enrichment that is considered suitable for a nuclear bomb and a flagrant breach of the limits of the 2015 accord. Iran also said it would replace damaged centrifuges at the Natanz facility with more advanced models that were banned under the accord.

The Natanz attack was said to have been carried out by Israel, which has regularly criticized the 2015 deal as weak and unlikely to restrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. U.S. officials have said Israel was responsible for the attack and have denied any American involvement.

The meeting in Vienna involved senior diplomats from Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia under the chairmanship of the European Union. Senior American officials are in a nearby hotel, because President Donald J. Trump withdrew the United States from the accord in 2018.

The three European nations, joined by the United States, have sharply criticized Iran’s moves in recent days, calling them “provocative” and “particularly regrettable” in the face of progress at the Vienna meetings.

“Iran’s dangerous recent communication is contrary to the constructive spirit and good faith of these discussions,” they noted in a statement, adding that Iran’s enrichment decision was “a serious development since the production of highly enriched uranium constitutes an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon.”

On Wednesday, the U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, criticized Iran’s intentions. “I have to tell you, this step calls into question Iran’s seriousness with regard to the nuclear talks, just as it underscores the imperative of returning to mutual compliance” with the nuclear deal.

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is purely civilian.

The talks are designed to bring the United States back into compliance with the 2015 deal by negotiating what economic sanctions should be lifted. A second working group is focusing on how to bring Iran back into compliance, which Iran has deliberately broken as a “remedial” measure since the economic benefits of the accord have been denied it.

Those talks are said to have been positive so far, but Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was dismissive of them in comments made on Wednesday marking the first day of Ramadan in Iran. He said it was “not worth looking at” initial offers for the lifting of sanctions, saying that “the offers they provide are usually arrogant and humiliating.”

He also warned that time could be running out. “The talks shouldn’t become talks of attrition,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “They shouldn’t be in a way that parties drag on and prolong the talks. This is harmful to the country.”

He also said that Iran was prepared to return quickly to compliance if agreement could be found in Vienna and again denied that Iran would ever build nuclear weapons.

The leader of the Iranian delegation, Abbas Araghchi, a deputy foreign minister, has been busy in Vienna holding bilateral talks in the last few days, rejecting speculation that Iran might withdraw from the negotiations. The impression among other diplomats involved is that Iran is committed to a deal, as is the United States.

How to get there and how to synchronize the moves of both sides in an atmosphere of mistrust is the task of the Vienna meetings. Whether that succeeds, or how long it will take, is unclear. But both Iran and the United States have said that they want a successful conclusion.

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U.S. Imposes Stiff Sanctions on Russia, Blaming It for Major Hacking Operation

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday announced tough new sanctions on Russia and formally blamed the country’s premier intelligence agency for the sophisticated hacking operation that breached American government agencies and the nation’s largest companies.

In the broadest effort yet to give more teeth to financial sanctions — which in the past have failed to deter Russian activity — the sanctions are aimed at choking off lending to the Russian government.

In an executive order, President Biden announced a series of additional steps — sanctions on 32 entities and individuals for disinformation efforts and for carrying out the Russian government’s interference in the 2020 presidential election. Ten Russian diplomats, most of them identified as intelligence operatives, were expelled from the Russian Embassy in Washington. The country also joined with European partners to sanction eight people and entities associated with Russia’s occupation in Crimea.

The announcement is the first time that the U.S. government had placed the blame for the “SolarWinds” hacking attack right at the Kremlin’s feet, saying it was masterminded by the SVR, one of the Russian intelligence agencies that was also involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee six years ago. The finding comports with the findings of private cybersecurity firms.

SolarWinds; to the C.I.A.’s assessment that Russia offered bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan; and to Russia’s longstanding effort to interfere in U.S. elections on behalf of Donald J. Trump. The key to the sanctions’ effectiveness, officials concede, will be whether European and Asian allies go along with that ban, and whether the United States decides to seek to extend the sanctions by threatening to cut off financial institutions around the world that deal in those Russian bonds, much as it has enforced “secondary sanctions” against those who do business with Iran.

In a conversation with President Vladimir V. Putin on Tuesday, Mr. Biden warned that the United States was going to act to protect its interests, but also raised the prospect of a summit meeting between the two leaders. It is unclear whether Russia will now feel the need to retaliate for the sanctions and expulsions. American officials are already alarmed by a troop buildup along the border of Ukraine and Russian naval activity in the Black Sea.

And inside American intelligence agencies there have been warnings that the SolarWinds attack — which enabled the SVR to place “back doors” in the computer networks — could give Russia a pathway for malicious cyber activity against government agencies and corporations.

Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, has often said that sanctions alone will not be sufficient, and said there would be “seen and unseen” actions against Russia. Mr. Biden, before his inauguration, suggested the United States would respond in kind to the hack, which seemed to suggest some kind of clandestine cyber response. But it may take weeks or months for any evidence that activity to come to light, if it ever does.

SolarWinds attack because that was the name of the Texas-based company whose network management software was subtlety altered by the SVR before the firms customers downloaded updated version. But the presidential statement alludes to the C.I.A.’s assessment that Russia offered bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan and explicitly links the sanctions to Russia’s longstanding effort to interfere in U.S. elections on behalf of Donald J. Trump.

In the SolarWinds breach, Russian government hackers infected network-management software used by thousands of government entities and private firms in what officials believe was, at least in its opening stages, an intelligence-gathering mission.

The SVR, also known as the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, is primarily known for espionage operations. The statement said American intelligence agencies have “high confidence in its assessment of attribution” of responsibility to Russia.

In an advisory, the United States described for private companies specific details about the software vulnerabilities that the Russian intelligence agencies used to hack into the systems of companies and governments. Most of those have been widely known since FireEye, a private security firm, first found evidence of the hack in December. Until FireEye’s discovery, the actions had been entirely missed by the U.S. government, largely because the attack was launched from inside the United States — where, as the Russians know well, American intelligence agencies are prohibited from operating.

Previous sanctions against Russia have been more narrowly drawn and have largely affected individuals. As such, the Kremlin has largely appeared to absorb or shrug off the penalties without changing its behavior.

trading in Moscow before the announcement, the ruble’s exchange rate to the dollar dropped about 1 percent, reflecting nervousness over how the sanctions would play out. The main stock index, Mosbirzhi, also fell just over 1 percent.

The fallout so far reflects years of Russian government policy to harden its financial defenses against sanctions and low oil prices by running budget surpluses and salting away billions of dollars in sovereign wealth funds.

Balanced budgets have been a core economic policy principle of Mr. Putin, who came to power more than 20 years ago during a post-Soviet debt crisis that he saw as humiliating for Russia and vowed not to repeat.

Still, analysts say strains from the past year of pandemic and the drop in the global price of oil, a major Russian export commodity, have left Russia more vulnerable to sanctions targeting sovereign debt. By the first quarter of this year, however, a recovery in oil prices had helped return the federal budget to surplus.

reported.

Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger reported from Washington, Steven Erlanger from Brussels, and Andrew E. Kramer from Moscow.

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Biden Administration to Impose Tough Sanctions on Russia

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden spoke with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, warning Mr. Putin about the Russian troop buildup on Ukraine’s border and in Crimea. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Wednesday that the call was meant to emphasize the consequences of Russia’s activities, but it was unclear if Mr. Biden telegraphed any of his administration’s pending moves.

The Biden administration has already carried out one round of sanctions against Russia, for the poisoning of the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny.

Those sanctions were similar to a series of actions that European nations and Britain took in October and expanded in March. Allied officials said that while the American response on Mr. Navalny was closely coordinated, the sanctions imposed for the election interference, bounties and hacking were meant to be more unilateral.

While Biden administration officials were for a while considering taking action only in response to the hacking, they decided to join that move with retaliations for other Russian actions, according to officials. Additionally, penalties coordinated with allies for Russia’s increased threat to Ukraine were expected, said one person familiar with the announcement.

The C.I.A. presented the Trump administration with an intelligence assessment that Russia had covertly offered to pay bounties to militant fighters to incentivize more killings of Americans in Afghanistan. But while the National Security Council at the Trump White House initially led an interagency effort to come up with response options, months passed and the White House did not authorize anything — not even the mildest option, delivering a diplomatic warning.

After the existence of the C.I.A. assessment and the White House’s inaction on it became public, there was bipartisan outrage in Congress. As a candidate, Mr. Biden raised the issue of the suspected bounties, and once in office, he ordered his intelligence officials to put together a full report on Russian efforts against Americans.

While the Biden administration has not released any new information on the suspected bounties, it did make public a report on Russian election interference. That report said that Mr. Putin had authorized extensive efforts to hurt Mr. Biden’s candidacy during the 2020 election, including by mounting covert operations to influence people close to President Donald J. Trump.

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Iran Nuclear Talks Start on Positive Note in Vienna

BRUSSELS — Talks in Vienna aimed at reinvigorating the Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration left in 2018 and which Tehran began breaking a year later made some progress this week: They didn’t break down.

Senior diplomats involved in the talks agreed on Friday that initial steps in two working groups designed to bring both the United States and Iran back into compliance with the accord were positive and would continue next week.

Although there are no direct talks between Iran and the United States, the other signatories to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, under the chairmanship of the European Union — are engaging in a kind of shuttle diplomacy between them.

One working group is focusing on how to lift the harsh economic sanctions that the United States imposed that are inconsistent with the terms of the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A. The other working group is focusing on how Iran can return to the limits on enriched uranium and the centrifuges to produce it under the terms of the deal.

a Twitter message after Friday’s meeting that “participants took stock of the work done by experts over the last three days and noted with satisfaction the initial progress made.” The senior diplomats who meet in what is known as the Joint Commission — representing all signatories except the United States — will reconvene next week “in order to maintain the positive momentum,” Mr. Ulyanov said.

The Iranian representative, Abbas Araghchi, the deputy foreign minister, said that the Joint Commission would meet again on Wednesday. In the meeting, he emphasized Iran’s commitment to the talks and that “this depends on the political will and seriousness of the other parties, otherwise there will be no reason to continue the negotiations,” according to comments posted on Twitter by the Iranian journalist Abas Aslani.

On Thursday, Mr. Araghchi told Iran’s Press TV that he saw hopeful signs from Washington about sanctions relief, but that “I think we have a longer road ahead, although we’re moving forward and the atmosphere is constructive.”

But a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said this week that Iran has now produced 55 kilograms, or around 120 pounds, of uranium enriched to 20 percent and within another eight months could reach 120 kilograms. In mid-February the amount was some 17.6 kilograms, which is indicative of why the other powers want to move quickly to bring Iran back to the limits mandated in the deal. Iran is also using advanced centrifuges and making uranium metal, both banned under the deal.

U.S. officials have worked to play down expectations for any quick breakthrough and have urged patience. Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, has said that the United States is prepared to lift all the sanctions reimposed and new ones imposed by President Donald Trump after May 2018 that are “inconsistent” with the nuclear deal.

sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, for instance, imposed in September 2019, are under terrorism legislation. But analysts believe that Iran will not accept leaving that sanction in place.

In what has been perceived as a gesture of good will, Iran on Friday released a South Korean oil tanker that had been held since January in a dispute over billions of dollars seized by Seoul in response to punishing American sanctions.

Iran had accused the ship, the MT Hankuk Chemi, of polluting the waters in the Strait of Hormuz, but the seizure was widely seen as an attempt to put pressure on Seoul to release billions of dollars in Iranian assets tied up in South Korean banks in response to U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The European Union said in a statement after Friday’s meeting that “participants took stock of the discussions held at various levels since the last Joint Commission in view of a possible return of the U.S.” to the nuclear deal and “discussed modalities to ensure the return to its full and effective implementation.”

The commission “was briefed on the work of the two expert groups on sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures and participants noted the constructive and results-oriented exchanges.”

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Iran Releases South Korean Oil Tanker

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A South Korean oil tanker held for months by Iran amid a dispute over billions of dollars seized by Seoul left port early Friday after the ship and its captain were released, just hours ahead of further talks between Tehran and world powers over its tattered nuclear deal.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said the MT Hankuk Chemi left an Iranian port around 6 a.m. local time after completing an administrative process, and data from MarineTraffic.com showed the tanker leaving Bandar Abbas in the early morning hours.

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, later confirmed that Iran had released the vessel. “At the request of the owner and the Korean government, the order to release the ship was issued by the prosecutor,” Khatibzadeh was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA news agency.

The Hankuk Chemi had been traveling in January from a petrochemicals facility in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates when armed troops from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stormed the vessel and forced the ship to change course and travel to Iran.

Iran in February released much of the ship’s crew.

The Yonhap news agency in South Korea, quoting an anonymous Foreign Ministry official, suggested that Seoul could pay off Iran’s United Nations dues that had been in arrears.

In January, the United Nations said Iran topped a list of countries that owed money to the world body, and the country risks losing its voting rights if the debt issue is not resolved.

The development came as Iran and world powers were set to resume negotiations in Vienna on Friday to break the standoff over U.S. sanctions against Iran and Iranian breaches of the nuclear agreement.

The 2015 nuclear accord, which President Donald Trump abandoned three years later, offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

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Iran and U.S. Agree on Path Back to Nuclear Deal

The new working groups are intended to create a road map for a synchronized return of both countries to compliance. But even if there is agreement, verification will take some time given the technical complications and the absence of trust on both sides.

For instance, companies that want to do business with Iran, and that were burned badly when Mr. Trump reimposed powerful American sanctions, will want to be sure that a new administration won’t reimpose sanctions. Iran will want to see economic benefits, not just the promise of them, and the United States will want the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure that Iran has returned to compliance and is not cheating, as it has done in the past.

In Vienna, Iran met with the other current members of the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, under the chairmanship of the European Union — in a grand hotel ballroom, while the American team, led by special envoy Robert Malley, worked separately in a nearby hotel. Iran has refused to meet directly with the United States, so the Europeans have been undertaking a kind of shuttle diplomacy.

The United States also wants to convince Iran to negotiate longer time limits for the accord and to begin further talks on limiting Iran’s missiles and support for allies and Shia militias through the region, including in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Iran has said that it has no interest in considering further negotiations until the United States restores the status quo ante and rejoins the deal.

More broadly, American officials are trying to gauge whether the United States and Iran can agree on how each can come back into compliance with the nuclear deal — or, at least, work toward bridging any gaps in a mutual understanding.

Iran was represented by Abbas Araghchi, the deputy foreign minister, who was crucial to negotiating the 2015 deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A., with the administration of President Barack Obama and Mr. Biden, then vice president.

Mr. Araghchi said in a statement after the talks that lifting U.S. sanctions would be “the first and most necessary step in reviving the J.C.P.O.A. The Islamic Republic of Iran is fully ready to stop its retaliation nuclear activity and return to its full commitments as soon as U.S. sanctions are lifted and verified.”

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The Iran Nuclear Talks Explained

BRUSSELS — In Vienna on Tuesday, the signers of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal will come together with what would appear to be a simple task. They want to restore compliance with an agreement that put strict controls on Iran’s nuclear enrichment, to ensure that it cannot build a nuclear weapon, in return for the lifting of punishing economic sanctions.

Both Iran and the United States insist that they want to return to the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A. But nothing about the meeting will be simple.

President Donald J. Trump pulled the United States out of the accord in May 2018, calling it “the worst deal ever negotiated,’’ and restored and then enhanced harsh economic sanctions against Iran, trying to force it to renegotiate.

Iran responded in part by enriching uranium significantly beyond the limits in the agreement, building more advanced centrifuges, and acting more aggressively in support of allies in the Middle East, like Hezbollah, Hamas, Shia militias in Iraq and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

intended to create a road map for a synchronized return of both Iran and the United States to compliance with the 2015 deal. It has been at risk of collapse since Mr. Trump repudiated American participation.

The accord was the outcome of years of negotiations with Iran. Under the chairmanship of the European Union, Britain, France and Germany made the first overtures to Iran, joined by the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: Russia, China and the United States.

But it was not until the United States started secret talks with Iran under President Barack Obama and agreed that Iran could enrich uranium, though under safeguards, that a breakthrough occurred. Even then, the deal was widely criticized as too weak by many in Congress and by Israel, which saw Iran’s possible reach for a nuclear weapon — an aspiration always denied by Iran — as an existential threat.

The Europeans tried to keep the deal alive, but proved unable to provide Iran the economic benefits it was due after Mr. Trump restored American sanctions that had been lifted under the deal’s terms. The American sanctions, based on the global power of the dollar and the American banking system, kept European and other companies from doing business with Iran, and Mr. Trump intensified the pressure by adding many more sanctions.

agreed in late February to keep recording information on its inspection equipment for three months, but without granting I.A.E.A. access. If economic sanctions are not lifted in that time, Iran says, the information will be deleted, which would leave the world in the dark about key parts of the nuclear program.

Iran insists it can return to compliance with the deal quickly, but wants the United States to do so first. The Biden administration says it wants Iran to go first.

Trust is one big problem. The Iranian regime was established by a revolution more than four decades ago that replaced the American-backed Shah of Iran with a complicated government overseen by clerics and the strong hand of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The ayatollah only reluctantly agreed to the 2015 deal with the “Great Satan” of America. After Mr. Trump pulled out, Mr. Khamenei’s mistrust only deepened.

Mr. Trump also imposed many economic sanctions on Iran beyond those originally lifted by the deal, trying “maximum pressure” to force Iran to negotiate much more stringent terms. Iranian officials now say as many as 1,600 American sanctions must be lifted, about half of them imposed by Mr. Trump. Some are aimed at terrorism and human rights violations, not nuclear issues. Lifting some of them would create opposition in Congress.

Many in Washington, let alone in Israel and Europe, also disbelieve Iran’s assertions that it has never pursued a nuclear weapon and would never do so.

Further complicating restoration of the accord are its “sunset” clauses, or time limits, that would allow Iran to resume certain nuclear enrichment activities. The Biden administration wants further negotiations with Iran to extend those time limits as well as put limits on Iran’s missile program and other activities.

Iran says it simply wants the United States to return to the deal it left, including the lifting of sanctions, before it will return, too. It has so far rejected any further talks.

Even under the Islamic regime, Iran has politics, too. There are presidential elections in June, with candidates approved by the clerics. The current president, Hassan Rouhani, who cannot run for another term, and the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, are considered relatively moderate and negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal. But powerful forces in Iran opposed the deal, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The moderates hope that quick progress on lifting economic sanctions will help them in the presidential elections; the hard-liners are expected to oppose any quick deal in Vienna that might benefit the moderates.

Iran has lived with tough Trump sanctions for three years now and survived popular discontent and even protests, and hard-liners will argue that another six months are not likely to matter.

The meeting of senior diplomats is formally a session of the Joint Commission of the deal, called by the European Union as chairman. Since the United States left the accord, its representatives will not be in the room, but somewhere nearby. Diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran will meet, with a European Union chair, and start to discuss how to revitalize the accord.

Iran refuses to meet face-to-face with American diplomats. So the Europeans suggest that they will either meet the Americans with proposals, or that the Iranians will leave the room before the Americans enter. This process of indirect talks could take time.

But European diplomats say that after a few days, the job will be left in Vienna to working groups on the complicated political and technical issues. If a rough agreement can be reached on a synchronized return to compliance, the expectation is that officials of Iran and the United States will meet to finalize the details.

The talks may take a long time, and some in Washington hope at least for an agreement in principle in the next few months that would bind any new Iranian government after the June elections.

But some European diplomats fear that too much time has already elapsed, and that the deal is effectively dead, and will essentially serve as a reference point for what may be a fundamentally new negotiation.

So the timeline is unclear, as is the prospect for success.

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Reversing Trump, Biden Repeals Sanctions on Human Rights Prosecutor

In June, Mr. Trump signed an executive order authorizing sanctions on any personnel at the International Criminal Court who were investigating “allied personnel without that ally’s consent.” In 2019, the Trump administration revoked Ms. Bensouda’s travel visa for the United States.

Mr. Trump’s moves were criticized by numerous governments, scholars and human rights groups. Ms. Bensouda herself said the Trump administration’s decision to impose penalties normally reserved for “narcotics traffickers” and “notorious terrorists” on human rights lawyers would reduce the United States’ standing on the global stage and diminish the potency of its economic sanctions.

A coalition of more than eighty nongovernmental organizations, activists and human rights experts signed a letter in February telling the Biden administration that there was “an immediate need” to reverse Mr. Trump’s sanctions on Ms. Bensouda and Mr. Mochochoko, which froze any assets they may have had in the United States.

In October, the Open Society Justice Initiative, an advocacy organization focused on human rights, joined four law professors in suing the U.S. government in federal court in New York over Mr. Trump’s executive order, arguing it violated their free speech rights under the First Amendment.

James A. Goldston, the group’s executive director, said on Friday that Mr. Trump’s order “effectively prevented us and other rights defenders and scholars from collaborating with the court, and conducting advocacy on its behalf concerning cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

“The order was a betrayal of America’s historic commitment to international justice,” he added.

Mr. Blinken’s announcement on Friday appeared intended to preclude possible embarrassment on Monday, when the U.S. government was scheduled to provide its response to the lawsuit. Rather than defending an order that has drawn scathing reactions around the world, the government can now argue the issue has become moot, lawyers said. A separate lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union would also likely become moot.

Philippe Sands, a law professor at University College London and an international lawyer with cases at The Hague, was among those who welcomed Mr. Biden’s decision.

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U.S. and Iran Agree to Indirect Talks on Returning to Nuclear Deal

Mr. Biden’s team has said that once there is mutual compliance with the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A., Washington wants to negotiate further with Iran to extend the time limitations in the deal and to try to constrain Iran’s missile programs and military support in the Middle East for groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Shia militias, as well as for the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.

The European Union issued a chairman’s statement after the meeting on Friday announcing the Vienna talks “in order to clearly identify sanctions lifting and nuclear implementation measures.’’ All parties, including Russia and China, “emphasized their commitment to preserve the JCPOA,” the statement said.

Both sides have been trying, through the European participants, to find a way back to the agreement without causing political problems at home. Iran will hold presidential elections in June, and the government clearly wants to show progress toward the lifting of punishing sanctions before then. Mr. Biden must be careful not to give Republicans in the Senate, most of whom opposed the deal in the first place, any sense that he is giving in to Iranian demands.

While Iran has always insisted it will never seek a nuclear weapon, the country is now thought to be only a few months away from amassing enough highly enriched uranium to create at least one nuclear weapon, so time is a factor for Washington, too.

In Tehran, Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s nuclear negotiator in the meeting, said that “return by the U.S. to the nuclear deal does not require any negotiation and the path is quite clear,” state television reported. Iran has insisted that since Washington was the one who left the deal, it must first return to it before Iran does, a public position it is likely to maintain despite the sequencing the Vienna talks are hoping to create.

Russia’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said that “the impression is that we are on the right track, but the way ahead will not be easy and will require intensive efforts. The stakeholders seem to be ready for that.”

Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York.

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