Sunday, December 5, 2021

Iran Says Nuclear Envoy to Travel to Brussels, But Doubts Remain About Tehran’s Severity

Hopes for Tehran to return to serious nuclear talks are rapidly dwindling. EU officials failed last week to persuade Iran’s tough new administration to agree on a date to resume talks in Vienna to renew the 2015 pact between President Barack Obama and Tehran.

After the election of the ultra-conservative cleric Ibrahim Raisi to the presidency of Iran four months ago, Tehran said it was ready to resume negotiations in the near future, but did not name a specific date. Meanwhile, Western officials are increasingly concerned about Iran’s nuclear activities.

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Security analysts believe Iran is only a month away from being able to produce enough highly enriched uranium to fuel a bomb. As time goes on, Israel behind the scenes convinces the Biden administration to formulate a plan B to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapon country.

FILE. This handout photo, provided by Iran’s Supreme Council for Human Rights on May 29, 2021, shows the organization’s deputy secretary, Ali Bagheri Kani, at her premises in the capital, Tehran. (Iran’s Supreme Council for Human Rights / AFP)

Some EU officials remain perplexed by a statement made earlier this week by a spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry that said the country’s lead nuclear negotiator and deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, will travel to Brussels on Thursday for substantive discussions on nuclear problems. “I think they are running by the clock,” a senior EU diplomat told Voice of America.

The bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned on Monday that any negotiations that did take place in Brussels would be preparatory meetings as a prelude to the resumption of negotiations in Vienna. However, unlike some of his officials, Borrell still hopes for progress. He told Reuters: “You never know. Today I am more optimistic than yesterday. There is no confirmation yet, but the situation is improving, and I hope that in the coming days we will have preparatory meetings in Brussels. ”

The EU is the official coordinator of the 2015 pact, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the JCPOA, and is pushing for the resumption of nuclear negotiations.

FILE - Participants await the start of the JCPOA Joint Commission meeting in Vienna, Austria on April 17, 2021 (EU Delegation Vienna / Handout via Reuters)

FILE – Participants await the start of the JCPOA Joint Commission meeting in Vienna, Austria on April 17, 2021 (EU Delegation Vienna / Handout via Reuters)

Negotiations began in Vienna in April after President Joe Biden expressed his willingness to revive the pact that Iran signed with six international powers, which resulted in some Western sanctions on Iran being lifted in exchange for winding down Tehran’s nuclear program.

During six rounds of talks in the Austrian capital ahead of Raisi’s election, the Iranians refused to meet face to face with US officials and spoke directly to only European, Russian and Chinese negotiators.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the international agreement in May 2018 and renewed sanctions, saying he wants an agreement that will impose indefinite, not temporary, restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and halt Iran’s ballistic missile development. Tehran announced last year that it would no longer abide by any nuclear restrictions following the targeted assassination of Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, in Baghdad in a US drone attack.

Stalls

EU diplomat Enrique Mora flew to Tehran last week to meet with senior Iranian officials, for the first time since Raisi’s election. Last week, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he believed Iran was holding back. “We are approaching a point where a return to compliance with the JCPOA alone will not bring back the benefits of the JCPOA, and this is because Iran has used this time to advance its nuclear program in various ways.”

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyanin (right) at a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington on October 13, 2021.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyanin (right) at a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington on October 13, 2021.

Speaking after a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Washington, Blinken warned that “the runway is getting shorter” and warned that other options might have to be explored. Western officials say Iran has accelerated its nuclear program by enriching uranium to higher levels, close to bomb sufficiency.

In September, two security analysts, David Albright and Sarah Burkhard of the ISIS Institute for Science and International Security, warned that “Iran continues to advance its important nuclear programs.”

They added: “In many ways, Iran’s nuclear capabilities now significantly exceed their status at the beginning of 2016, when the JCPOA was implemented. Its breakthrough time, namely the time required to produce weapon-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon or explosive device, is about one month. ”

In a document for ISIS, they said: “While it will take Iran longer to build a nuclear explosive device, or even longer to build a finished nuclear weapon, it has extensive experience in developing and manufacturing nuclear weapons and is ready to build its first nuclear weapon. short order “.

David Albright is a former UN nuclear weapons inspector.

Israeli politicians and security officials fear that Iran is deliberately postponing the resumption of serious negotiations and is using time to continue enriching uranium. In his speech to the UN General Assembly in September, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Iran’s nuclear program “has reached a tipping point, as has our tolerance.”

He added: “Words don’t stop centrifuges from spinning.” Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, said last month that Israel has “significantly accelerated” operational preparations against Iran’s nuclear program.

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