Iran nuclear talks enter now-or-never phase

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If a new round of nuclear talks The US and its European allies may take steps to step up pressure on Iran, failing to advance progress beginning Thursday in Vienna.

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state of play: The US and the E3 – France, Germany and the UK – accused Iran of taking an extremist stance and failing to seriously negotiate in the final round, which ended on Friday.

  • US and European diplomats say Iran has backed away from some commitments made by the previous Iranian government to back its nuclear program, while increasing its demands on sanctions relief.
  • US officials have warned that a withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal may not be viable in the near future if Iran continues down this path.

On the other end: Iranians have rejected Western criticism and claim they are showing pragmatism.

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdullahian said on Monday that all of Iran’s proposals fall within the framework of the 2015 deal and were based on a draft agreement signed with the previous Iranian government in June.
  • He stressed that Iran expected E3 to take the initiative to lift sanctions last week, which did not happen.
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Running news: It is the eighth round of talks this year, and the second since the radical administration of President Ibrahim Raisi took power in Tehran.

  • US Iran envoy Rob Malle and his team are expected to arrive in Vienna on Thursday and continue talks indirectly through European mediators.
  • The US Treasury announced on Tuesday new restrictions against several Iranian officials for their role in cracking down on the protesters.
  • Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadehi tweeted In response: “Doubling down on sanctions won’t do any good – and that’s anything but seriousness and goodwill.”

Behind the scenes: European diplomats say axios report Israeli intelligence suggesting that Iran is preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium was discussed in Vienna. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also picked up the report in a call with Amir-Abdullahian, who denied it.

  • “I told him very clearly that this is an attempt to create buzz in the media,” Amir-Abdullahian said on Monday. “The Islamic Republic continues to maintain its enrichment at the level of 20%, and we do not confirm the reports about the 90% enrichment. They are total lies.”
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What will happen next: If the new round of talks fails, the US and the E3 are likely to convene an emergency session of the International Atomic Energy Agency board by the end of December to pass a censure resolution against Iran, US officials say.

  • Next steps could include further sanctions against Iran and even the introduction of snapback sanctions at the UN Security Council. E3 diplomats say the UK would support such an approach.

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