Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, have extended for one month a monitoring agreement over Iran’s nuclear sites that expired on May 21.
The last-minute extension came as a new round of negotiations between Iran and world powers over the Iran nuclear deal was set to take place in Vienna. The United States and Iran have said they share the goal of returning to compliance with the deal, known as the JCPOA. Under the Trump administration, the United States withdrew from the deal in 2018 and imposed new sanctions on Iran; since then, Iran has taken several steps, including enriching uranium to levels beyond those specified in the JCPOA.
Chaired by the European Union, the current discussions on how to accomplish the objective of a mutual return to compliance by the two countries include Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia, with indirect, but key, participation by the United States.
After the round of discussions that ended May 19, European External Action Service Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora, who chairs the talks, declared that the participants “made good progress. An agreement is shaping up.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a recent television interview that the talks in Vienna have “clarified what each side needs to do in order to come back into compliance.”
For the United States, he said, “We know what sanctions would need to be lifted if they’re inconsistent with the nuclear agreement.” But more importantly, he added, “Iran knows what it needs to do to come back in compliance on the nuclear side. And what we haven’t yet seen is whether Iran is ready and willing to make a decision to do what it has to do. That’s the test, and we don’t yet have an answer.”
In a separate interview, Secretary of State Blinken emphasized that the United States is “fully prepared” to return to the JCPOA, and that if both countries are successful in achieving that goal, the JCPOA can be used as a foundation for a stronger agreement that also addresses Iran’s destabilizing behavior throughout the Middle East.
“But…the first step needs to be a return to mutual compliance,” Secretary Blinken said. “That’s what we’re working on and that’s where we still don’t know if Iran is willing to say yes.”