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Iran and World Powers Kick Off Nuclear Negotiations as Expectations For a Deal Remain Low

By Teymour Nsouli

New York City, New York

Diplomats from the European Union, China, Russia and Iran in Vienna (Lars Ternes / Eu Delegation in Vienna / Getty Images)

Refusing to hold direct talks with the United States, Iran, and various world powers are back at the negotiating table in an effort to revive the almost seemingly perished Nuclear Deal. Meanwhile, Israel has aimed to create obstacles with negotiations, reports surfaced that the Israelis relayed messages to the U.S. suggesting Iran seeks to enrich uranium to the 90 percent level, which is enough for a nuclear bomb.

There is little hope amongst global powers that Iran and the United States will salvage a deal that took years to negotiate and was abandoned in 2018 by former U.S. President Donald Trump. The Biden administration's "maximum diplomacy" approach seems all but certain to fail, just as Trump's crippling sanctions campaign was unsuccessful in bringing Iran back to the negotiating scene.

There are still many options on the table if talks with the world powers fall short, including military action and the continuation of harsh sanctions. If discussions prove to be unsuccessful, the U.S. may be forced to attack uranium enrichment sites in Iran. A scenario that seems more likely is that the Biden administration may give Israel the green light to strike Iran on its behalf without directly engaging in a confrontation. With Biden's team redirecting its focus from the Middle East to Asia, Washington cannot afford to enter another endless war—especially after their withdrawal from Afghanistan in August. Another obstacle facing world powers is Iran's new political landscape which has adopted a "hardline" approach to negotiations and is less keen on warming relations with western powers.

The Islamic Republic's new president, Ebrahim Raisi, also known as the "protégé" of Iran's supreme leader, differs significantly in his foreign policy approach from the country's former moderate president: Hassan Rouhani. Under Rouhani's administration, Iran was able to strike a deal with the U.S. that would curb the republic's nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief.

While this deal was negotiated under the Obama administration, with Biden serving as Vice President, things have dramatically changed in the past few years since the Trump administration adopted what was seen by many as a cruel and aggressive approach towards combating Iran's regional and international ambitions. Expectations for a potential agreement are grim, and both the U.S. and Iran have extremely onerous demands which are unlikely to be met in the near future.

Iran insists on the removal of all sanctions imposed on the country and a guarantee that future successors of Biden will not be able to withdraw from any deal again. On the other hand, the U.S. wants the Islamic republic to dispose of its enriched uranium and the machinery used to produce it before it considers lifting sanctions.​ Failure to reach an agreement could have detrimental consequences for the entire Middle East.

Any confrontation with Iran would also mean regional conflict, and unfortunately, it is the innocent civilians who will have to bear the consequences of a failed negotiation.


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