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March 7, 2022 4:18 pm

US Urged to Stand Firm as Russia Inserts Ukraine-Related Demands Into Iran Nuclear Deal Negotiations in Vienna

avatar by Ben Cohen

Cameras stand outside Palais Coburg, the site of a meeting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in Vienna, Austria, November 29, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

In an apparent message to Russia, the Iranian regime’s foreign minister on Monday underlined Tehran’s objection to permitting “any foreign factor” to derail talks currently underway in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.

Meeting on Monday with representatives of the Iranian parliament, foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian stated that Iran “was standing fast on our red lines” and would “not allow any foreign factor to affect the realization of the country’s national interests in the Vienna talks for the removal of sanctions.”

Amir-Abdollahian’s comments followed a weekend of confusion over whether the Vienna talks would reach a much-anticipated agreement, after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demanded, as the price of Russia’s support, guarantees that Moscow’s commercial and military relationship with Tehran would not be adversely impacted by western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.

“We requested that our US colleagues give us written guarantees at the minimum level of Secretary of State that the current sanctions process launched by the US will not in any way harm our right to free, fully-fledged trade and economic and investment cooperation and military-technical cooperation with Iran,” Lavrov said at a press conference on Saturday.

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On Monday, however, Russia’s envoy to Iran sought to limit any potential damage caused by Lavrov’s comments. In an interview with the official Tasnim news agency, Russian Ambassador Levan Dzhagaryan said without elaborating that there had been a “misunderstanding” over what Lavrov had meant, and that Russia “will officially give an explanation to our Iranian friends in this regard.”

US policy analysts working on Iran told The Algemeiner on Monday that the US and its allies should summarily dismiss the Russian demands.

“Democrats and Republicans should neither trust a deal brokered by Putin who is engaging in war crimes in front of our very eyes, nor allow Russia to be exempt from sanctions as part of any Iran deal,” Toby Dershowitz — senior vice president for government relations and strategy at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington, DC — wrote in an email.

Added Dershowitz: “Whatever one had thought of the deal, the world now can’t help but see the US is being played by Russia and Iran. Russia’s diplomats bragged as much over the weekend. It’s time to pause the deal and ensure that no terrorism or human rights sanctions are lifted, that the International Atomic Energy Agency determines before a deal is agreed to whether Iran’s nuclear program was and is only for peaceful purposes, and that all terms of the deal are put to a vote to  Congress as is required by law.”

An attempt “to get a deal at any cost is not good policy,” she said.

Alan Goldsmith, an advisor to the advocacy organization United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), argued that Russia’s goals were transparent and needed to be blocked by western parties at the Vienna negotiations.

“The Russians want an economic lifeline,” Goldsmith said during a phone interview. “It’s bad enough that this deal could give the Iranian regime an economic lifeline, now it could do the same for the Russian regime.”

Goldsmith urged the US and its partners to “refuse to weaken the sanctions architecture against Russia, in fact they should be strengthening it.”

Moreover, there was now an “opportunity to reconsider making a deal that will give Iran almost everything it wants in exchange for temporary, meaningless concessions,” he said.

The Russian stance was strongly criticized by a French presidency official in Vienna on Monday. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the talks, the official urged Russia to assess what was at stake in Vienna: “That is to say Iran‘s return to respecting its obligations under the JCPOA,” referring to the 2015 deal by its technical name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“Because otherwise, in reality, it’s just blackmail and not diplomacy,” the official told reporters.

A European diplomat added: “The Russians are really trying it on and the Iranians aren’t happy, although of course not saying too much publicly. We’re trying to find a way through.”

Iran is sticking firmly to two demands in the negotiations over a revived JCPOA, which have now entered their eleventh month. Firstly, the lifting of international sanctions and secondly, a guarantee that the US will not leave the agreement again, as it did in 2018 following a decision by the former Trump administration.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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