On Friday, the Iranian regime officially responded to a US proposal regarding the “final text” of the agreement to reinstate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or 2015 nuclear deal. However, regime officials and state media outlets have been evasive on the subject, avoiding deadlines and firm commitments while explicitly stating that the negotiating process could last until September.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Wednesday that an underground nuclear facility in Natanz had started feeding uranium through the second of three “cascades” of advanced enrichment centrifuges, which raised new concerns about that progress. This is the latest in a long line of Iranian regime escalations aimed at pressuring its Western negotiating partners to concede the final points of contention over the JCPOA.
Today, the regime is enriching uranium to 60% purity, just a technical step away from weapons grade, and its stockpile has grown to at least 3,800 kg, more than enough for the regime to develop one nuclear weapon should it decide to “break out.”
On Sunday, details of the so-called final text were leaked to the international press, raising new concerns about the potential consequences of these developments. The full re-implementation of the JCPOA is now expected to take place in four phases over 165 days, but it is unclear whether that process will include imposing significant restrictions on the Iranian regime’s nuclear activity before or after the regime gains access to unfrozen assets and other economic benefits.
Since negotiations to resurrect the JCPOA began nearly 18 months ago in Vienna, Iranian officials have argued that the US should lift all sanctions against the regime before they resume active compliance with the original terms. Perhaps most concerning, since late last year, Tehran has insisted that the US remove the regime’s hard-line paramilitary, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, from its list of foreign terrorist organizations as a precondition to any deal.
Following the presentation of the European Union’s “final text” in August, US officials began to express greater optimism about the prospects for a breakthrough, claiming that Tehran had finally dropped its ultimatum regarding the IRGC. However, the signers of Thursday’s letter to the U.S. President- 34 Democrats and 16 Republicans – expressed skepticism on this point, which aligned with reports in Iranian state media suggesting that Tehran had simply changed course to seek relief from targeted sanctions rather than outright removal of the terrorist designation.
Although EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has stated that the process will be completed in a matter of days, Iranian regime Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has stated that there are still issues “which we need to strengthen in the text” and that the process will last until September.