Iran-US nuclear deal talks in Qatar: What you should know

TEHRAN (Parliament Politics Magazine) –  Indirect nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States are anticipated to start in Qatar, with the European Union acting as a mediator.

After prior discussions stalled in March, the negotiations, which are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, have revived expectations for a diplomatic resolution.

Here is everything you need to know about the negotiations, whose outcome might have an impact on the Middle East and beyond.

What are the talks intended to achieve?

  • The goal of the negotiations is to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and major world powers, including China, France, Germany, Russia, the US, the UK, and the UK.
  • Under former President Donald Trump, the US unilaterally ended the agreement in 2018 and then placed severe penalties on Iran.
  • Iran’s response was to advance its nuclear programme, which it still insists is only used for peaceful purposes. Other nations fear that may not be the case and that Iran may be attempting to create a nuclear weapon, while the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world’s nuclear watchdog, is troubled by a lack of cooperation.

How did the nuclear agreement work?

  • The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the agreement is officially called, was signed after years of arduous talks and placed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the relaxation of multilateral sanctions that were in place at the time.
  • The agreement permits Iran to enrich uranium to a maximum of 3.67 percent while ensuring that Iran’s nuclear programme is peaceful through round-the-clock IAEA oversight.
  • Many Iranians had believed that the agreement would boost the country’s economy at the time.

Why did the discussions stop in March?

  • The initial negotiations to resurrect the agreement were held in Vienna in April 2021 between Iran and the P4+1 (China, Russia, France, the UK, and Germany). Iran refused to join directly, therefore the US took an indirect part.
  • Negotiators appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in March after numerous rounds of discussions punctuated with breaks, but it never materialised.
  • Iran and the US have been communicating ever since, but no agreement has been reached.
  • The main point of contention between the two has been how far the US will go in easing the sanctions; the status of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) remains a key roadblock, with the US hesitant on removing the military from its list of foreign terrorist organisations.

Why return right now?

  • Following Josep Borrell’s visit to Tehran earlier this week, Iran and the US decided to continue their negotiations.
  • All parties openly concur that the ideal result is a renewed nuclear agreement since it will lessen tensions that can escalate into armed war.
  • If successful, it will also herald the full return of Iranian oil to the world markets, which is something that is greatly in demand in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Why choose Qatar?

  • The discussions will be held in Qatar because of its positive connections with both the US and Iran.
  • Since last year, Doha has been regularly communicating messages between Tehran and Washington and has encouraged the restoration of JCPOA.
  • Qatar takes over from its neighbour Oman, which had held the direct, private negotiations between Iran and the US that resulted in the initial agreement.

How likely is the success?

  • Returning to the negotiation table is a sign that things might progress, but success is not guaranteed.
  • Sanctions-related issues are still open, and Israel has warned against reviving the agreement, preferring to put further pressure on Iran.
  • According to Iran, it wants to make sure it would receive the economic advantages guaranteed in the initial agreement.
  • The time is running out; earlier this month, Iran removed 27 IAEA cameras in retaliation for a resolution that the US, France, the UK, and Germany introduced that condemned Iran. The agency will struggle to monitor activity at Iran’s nuclear sites if the cameras are not turned back on, which might jeopardise the JCPOA.
  • Israel, the main opponent of the nuclear agreement, has maintained its threat to take action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.