Despite recently being seen as among the most supportive JCPOA signatories who want to see a completed nuclear deal, France is now accusing Iran of needlessly dragging out indirect negotiations with the US in Vienna. The talks have remained stalled ahead of the seventh round of talks, which the Iranian side said would resume after Iran's president-elect Ibrahim Raisi takes office on August 3rd.
France's foreign ministry laid blame for the long stall at Tehran's feet, however, saying "If it continues on this path, not only will it continue to delay when an agreement to lift sanctions can be reached, but it risks jeopardizing the very possibility of concluding the Vienna talks and restoring the JCPOA."
There haven't been talks since June 20th, and in the meantime the Biden administration is reportedly mulling slapping yet more sanctions on Iran. The Monday statement is sure to be met with exasperation among Iranian officials, given they've consistently blamed Washington for refusing to drop Trump-era sanctions which continue to decimate the Iranian economy.
"There is not much left to sanction in Iran’s economy," one US official told the Wall Street Journal. last week. "Iran’s oil sales to China is the prize." Indeed Chinese buyers are what's keeping Iran's oil sector barely afloat.
The Biden administration appears to be holding this "threat" above Tehran's head if things don't go well in Vienna, per the WSJ:
One plan being drafted would choke off Iran’s swelling crude-oil sales to China, the country’s main client, through fresh sanctions targeting the shipping networks that help export an estimated one million barrels a day and bring critical revenue to Iran, the officials said.
The new steps would take place if nuclear talks fail, the officials said. The plan would involve the aggressive enforcement of current sanctions already banning dealings with Iran’s oil and shipping industry through new designations or legal actions, the officials said. In the past, the U.S. has, for instance, sanctioned the captain of a Syria-bound Iranian crude tanker and obtained the seizure of fuel cargoes Tehran was sending to Venezuela.
While it's widely believed the Vienna negotiations will continue after hardline cleric Ibrahim Raisi takes office, it will certainly complicate things, especially entering an environment of accusations and denunciations, and one in which Washington still hasn't budged on sanctions relief.
Raisi is seen as close to the Ayatollah - the latter who is supportive of the talks so long as they don't "drag on" - which ironically is the very thing Macron is now accusing Tehran of causing.