'They Won't Cheat Us Again': Media Adviser to Iran's Nuclear Team Discusses Deal Prospects in Vienna
© AP Photo / Vahid SalemiPosters of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in Iraq in a U.S. drone attack in Jan. 3, 2020, are seen in front of Qiam, background left, Zolfaghar, top right, and Dezful missiles displayed in a missile capabilities exhibition by the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard a day prior to second anniversary of Iran's missile strike on U.S. bases in Iraq in retaliation for killing Gen. Soleimani, at Imam Khomeini grand mosque, in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. Iran put three ballistic missiles on display on Friday, as talks in Vienna aimed at reviving Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers flounder.
© AP Photo / Vahid Salemi
As the talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal continue in Vienna, the Islamic Republic insists that the West should remove the harsh economic sanctions imposed on the nation. Tehran is also demanding that Washington provide it with reassurances that subsequent US administrations will not back out of any new agreement.
Indirect talks between the United States and Iran regarding the latter's nuclear programme, which kicked off last week, continue in the Austrian capital of Vienna.
The goal is to ink a deal similar to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that the US withdrew from in 2018 and which presupposed the lifting of western sanctions against Iran in exchange for supervision of its nuclear programme.
In the US, some have already voiced optimism at this latest round of talks, saying a deal is just around the corner.
Is a Deal Likely?
Professor Mohammad Marandi, a media adviser to the Iranian nuclear negotiations team, says it is too early to jump to conclusions.
"There is a significant possibility that there will be an agreement...as we see some movement from the US and Europe. But there is also a chance there won't. Everything will depend on Washington and on whether they really want it".
Most of the friction is caused by the inability to agree on the removal of the western sanctions imposed to force Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.
Those sanctions, which encompass everything from international trade and insurance to banking, energy, and nuclear industries have taken a toll on the nation's economy and its people.
Between 2011 and 2015, Iran's economy contracted by 20 percent, with unemployment rising to about 20 percent as well.
America's so-called "maximum pressure" has only become stronger over the years. Under the Trump administration, the US imposed more than 960 sanctions on Iran, resulting in 33 percent of Iranians living below the poverty line by the end of 2019.
When President Biden took office, the belief was that the pressure would subside or cease, but Marandi says the current administration has continued to pursue the policy enacted by its predecessor. And not only that, but after more than a year in office the new occupants of the White House have not done much to come to terms with the Islamic Republic.
They Won't Cheat Us
Iran is not only insisting on the removal of sanctions. Tehran wants to have assurances and guarantees that Washington will not back out on the deal, break the rules, or leave the agreement like in 2018.
And what they also want to see is a "proper verification process" meaning that sanctions are removed, something that, according to Marandi, was missing from the 2015 deal.
"In 2015, we made sure to implement the deal. It was [President Barack] Obama, who didn't. Behind closed doors, he told the Treasury and various firms not to work with us. In 2018, they violated the agreement again by leaving it, while we were loyal. So, what Iran is saying now is that you can't cheat us again".
In the West, politicians and experts have a different take. Over the years, Iran has been blamed for continuing to enrich its uranium towards impermissible levels.
They have also been eyeing with concern Iran's ballistic missile programme, and the general fear is that Tehran's nuclear ambitions stem from a desire to acquire a bomb, allegations that the Islamic Republic has repeatedly denied.
Yet, the West is far from being the only player that has felt unease at the talks in Vienna. Israel and the Gulf States have been following the developments in the Austrian capital too, but Marandi says a nuclear deal, if one is eventually reached, should not concern them.
"Neighbouring countries are influenced by US policies. They are in the American camp, and America doesn't care about human dignity. All they care about is their dominance and interests. If it wasn't for Washington, relations with our neighbours would have been better but we still want to build bridges".