The White House has received Tehran's awaited response to prior US stipulations regarding the final text of a restored JCPOA nuclear deal, and the initial reaction strongly suggests that negotiations are once again in peril even as the deal is at the 'finish line'.
Politico bluntly observes of the latest, "The negative reaction from the Biden administration — as well as European sources — suggests that a revival of the 2015 nuclear agreement is not imminent as some supporters of the deal had hoped, despite roughly a year and a half of talks."
A senior Biden administration official told the publication Thursday night, "We are studying Iran’s response, but the bottom line is that it is not at all encouraging," and concluded further: "based on their answer, we appear to be moving backwards."
The Europeans appear to be on the same page, with an EU diplomat who has seen Iran's fresh response assessing that Iran's answer was "negative and not reasonable".
The details of what the Islamic Republic added to the text has yet to be revealed, but US officials only days ago suggested that the world was "closer" than ever to witnessing a restored deal.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said earlier this week that without finding final settlement on the issue of the IAEA probe into traces of uranium found at undeclared nuclear sites, it remains that "talking about an agreement would be meaningless." These words were also viewed as a negative sign that negotiators could be further from the finish line of a completed deal than previously thought.
Two additional factors loom large in the background which make a finalized deal increasingly unlikely: US domestic politics and a full court Israeli press to influence Biden officials. Concerning the former, Politico writes:
A deal to restore the 2015 agreement will likely face a review in Congress. But with midterm elections coming up in November, many Democrats in particular may want to avoid an Iran debate in the weeks immediately prior.
"With this opportunity squandered, it is now hard to imagine that a deal can happen before the midterms," said Ali Vaez, a top analyst with the International Crisis Group.
Concerning America's closest regional ally, starting next week Mossad chief David Barnea will be in Washington lobbying US intelligence counterparts and Biden administration officials to resist entering a "bad deal" - as Israeli leadership has long dubbed efforts in Vienna to restore the JCPOA.
Iran has called its own final text additions "constructive"...
Time will tell how "constructive" it is and whether it is truly "aimed at finalizing the negotiations." This is #Iran's description of its own response. Khamenei made no mention of the JCPOA in his remarks this week on government priorities.https://t.co/MBqTFctM76— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) September 1, 2022
The Times of Israel notes that "Barnea will be the third senior Israeli official to visit Washington in recent days to discuss the Iran deal, after Defense Minister Benny Gantz and national security adviser Eyal Hulata."