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Iran nuclear deal is in the 'emergency room' awaiting US decision, says official

Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson says 'opportunity for dialogue' would not 'remain open forever'
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh speaks to media during a press conference in Tehran, on 11 April 2022.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh speaks during a press conference in Tehran, on 11 April 2022 (AFP)

Iran said on Monday that the 2015 nuclear deal was lingering in the "emergency room", with its fate resting in the hands of the US, following Tehran's latest proposal to revive the landmark accord.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, told reporters in Tehran that the Islamic Republic had finalised all details needed to revive the agreement, but the US had yet to make a decision on Tehran's latest series of requests.

Talks aimed at reviving the deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), have hit a snag in recent weeks, with the Biden administration refusing to remove Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from its foreign terrorist organisation blacklist (FTO).

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Former President Donald Trump nixed the pact in May 2018 and started piling sanctions on the Iranian economy as part of his "maximum pressure" campaign.

In 2019, the IRGC was blacklisted by Trump, who accused the group of promoting terrorism "as a tool of statecraft". The contentious decision marked the first time Washington had ever branded a state military institution as a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO).

While the designation is not officially tied to the nuclear deal, Tehran has insisted it must be removed in order for the pact to be revived.

"We haven't reached the point yet where the US side has shown the will to return to its own obligations under the nuclear deal and the related United Nations resolution," Khatibzadeh said.

The "opportunity for dialogue" will not "remain open forever", he added.

Over the weekend, Iranian parliamentarians introduced conditions for the revival of the accord, including establishing legal guarantees approved by the US Congress that Washington would not leave the agreement at a later date and the immediate "snapback" of sanctions on Iran would not be triggered.

'Not overly optimistic'

Reviving the Iran nuclear deal would ease international sanctions against Tehran and trigger the return of its crude oil to markets at a time of unprecedented volatility because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, Russia inserted new conditions on the Iran deal tied to western sanctions on Moscow over its war in Ukraine, causing talks to pause. While Russia later backed down on its demands, Tehran and Washington remain deadlocked in negotiations, especially over the FTO designation.

Reversing the decision could be a political mistake for the Biden administration, which faces midterm elections this year that could see his party lose control of both chambers of Congress. The idea of lifting the designation has been met with opposition from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress.

Biden also faces stiff opposition to the deal from Gulf Arab governments and Israel, who argue the nuclear accord failed to address worries over Tehran's ballistic missile capabilities or its support for militias across the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the region last month, including trips to Israel and the UAE, for talks that included those concerns.

In an interview Blinken gave to NBC News last week, he said the IRGC was a terrorist group - before adding that he was "not overly optimistic at the prospects of actually getting [the nuclear] agreement to conclusion".

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