Update(1521ET): Not for the first time, the past hours of optimistic reports surrounding a potential 'imminent' Iran nuclear deal appears to be premature as the Aug.15th EU deadline for Iran to accept the final text could come and go, given the latest statements out of the US administration:
- If Iran cannot accept a mutual return to JCPOA, US is fully prepared to continue vigorous enforcement of sanctions
- US will provide response on EU proposal to revive Iran nuclear deal privately to EU coordinator
There's clearly a threat of continued sanctions enforcement by the US here, signaling that even if Iran presents willingness to compromise, Washington might still not be ready to play ball.
But the key plot twist within the last hour has centered on the US State Department's Ned Price for the first time referencing the Salman Rushdie assassination attempt in connection with a potential hold-up in implementing a final JCPOA deal...
Ned Price: "It's no secret Iranian regime has been central to threats against #SalmanRushdie's life. We've heard Iran officials seek to incite violence... even recently with gloating that took place in aftermath of attack. It's absolutely outrageous, despicable & intolerable."— Iran International English (@IranIntl_En) August 15, 2022
And more important caveats, and possible deal-breakers, from the US side...
#BREAKING The US will reject any Iranian request for major changes to the text proposed by EU, but it is prepared for continued talks on changes in the form of the text, a Western diplomat told @IranIntl_En's @AhmadSamadi1974 as Iran prepares to send its response to EU proposal.— Iran International English (@IranIntl_En) August 15, 2022
Rushdie, who was stabbed ten times on Friday by a New Jersey man with what appeared to be a motivation of religious extremism and terrorism, and is currently recovering in a New York hospital, has had a fatwa and bounty on his head from the Ayatollahs of Iran spanning back to 1989.
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Reports out of Tehran suggest the Iranian side is prepared to accept the proposed finalized restored JCPOA nuclear deal submitted by the European Union last week. Of the EU announcement made days ago, the AP wrote, "After 16 months of torturous on-and-off indirect negotiations to restore the deal, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell suggested there was no more room for negotiation on the draft now on the table."
With a deal in "final text" form, there's been days of awaiting the imminent responses of Tehran and Washington, with Bloomberg on Monday reporting, "Iran says we have to let go on some nuclear demand to gain others; Iran to inform the EU of its response to a nuclear deal text tonight."
However, Iranian officials noted a key caveat of "Further nuclear talks will be needed if the US refuses to show flexibility," strongly pointing to an expected positive assent. It's also a rare moment Iran's leadership has voiced willingness to compromise.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Monday, "We exchange messages with Washington on three issues, and we have informed them of our readiness for compromise," as cited in Reuters.
According to a press readout of the foreign ministry press conference, "He indicated that Tehran is ready to complete the deal to be further announced in the meeting of the ministries of foreign affairs if the Iranian opinions are approved, pointing out that Iran has no problem in reaching a deal if the US side adheres to the red lines determined by Iran."
Further the top Iranian diplomat called the Biden administration to "show more flexibility, stressing that the US side has relatively agreed to the Iranian proposals in Vienna negotiations with regard to two verbal matters that must be converted into a text and show flexibility on one issue, adding that the upcoming days will be highly critical." Still, Iran's expectations haven't been fully met, the statement continued, stressing willingness to compromise.
It's also being reported by regional Tehran Times that through "Qatari mediation, Iran has accepted the EU proposal, and an agreement will soon be signed." This after last week Russian envoy Mikhail Ulyanov was widely quoted as saying, "we stand five minutes or five seconds from the finish line."
It appears that finish line is here, and energy is reacting at the start of the week, as oil meanwhile has extended losses on the prospect of more Iranian supply flooding onto the market, as well as concerns over Chinese demand, sinking to a six month low.
"It was said in the extraordinary meeting that a wrap-up of expert opinions is being finalized," according to Nour News, the news website of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.#ViennaTalks— Iran International English (@IranIntl_En) August 15, 2022
The Wall Street Journal reported days ago something which at this point may have been resolved via EU mediation, "However, Iran came into last week’s talks insisting that the U.N. atomic agency’s three-year probe into undeclared nuclear material found in the country must be closed down if the nuclear deal is revived."
The report noted further that "Several Western diplomats said... Tehran has doubled down on this condition in the past few days of talks and there is no agreement on the issue." Looming in the background, Israel has been the most outspoken country, though not a signatory to the JCPOA or part of the Vienna process, charging that Tehran is pursing a nuclear bomb. Israeli leaders have long been lobbying the Biden administration to reject a restored JCPOA, seeing it as Iranian cover for a hidden nuclear weapons program, a charge which Iran's leaders have denied.