Iranian Foreign Minister Insists Tehran Won’t Budge on ‘Red Lines’ at Vienna Talks on Revived Nuclear Deal
Iran’s foreign minister continued his tour of Tehran’s regional allies on Thursday, arriving in Beirut from the Syrian capital Damascus, where he reiterated that any progress at talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement depended on US willingness to compromise.
“Instead of wasting time by playing with words, the United States should take the right path and act pragmatically,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian declared. “We are ready for a good, strong and stable agreement, but not at the price of our red lines.”
Amirabdollahian did not specify what these “red lines” involved, but there has been widespread speculation in recent weeks that Iran is insisting on the removal of the Tehran regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from the US list of proscribed foreign terrorist organizations. Iranian negotiators have also demanded the removal of the robust sanctions put in place when former US President Donald Trump announced that the US was withdrawing its support from the nuclear deal in 2018.
Meeting with Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the Lebanese parliament, on Thursday afternoon, Amirabdollahian again raised his objection to sanctions through a reference to the measures taken against Moscow by the international community in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
“We are against war whether it is in Afghanistan, Yemen, or Ukraine,” he said. “At the same time, the imposition of unilateral sanctions by Western states is also unacceptable to us. The Islamic Republic of Iran encourages a resolution of the developments in Ukraine through political dialogue.”
For his part, Berri — the head of the Shi’a Amal movement who is close to Iran’s terrorist ally, Hezbollah — praised his guest for pursuing exactly those policies that have made western governments nervous. “Iran is the main source of resistance in the region as well as a source of inspiration for all resistance movements worldwide,” Berri stated. He also criticized those Arab countries who had signed peace agreements with Israel, accusing them of “turning their backs on the Palestinian cause.”
Earlier this week, Amirabdollahian met in Damascus with his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad. The two discussed the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine on Lebanon and Syria, where a Russian military presence sustains the regime of President Bashar-al Assad.
Amirabdollahian also addressed the ongoing talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The two regional rivals have clashed in Yemen’s brutal civil war which has so far claimed the lives of nearly 250,000 people. Iran is backing the rebel Houthi movement in Yemen, while the Saudis have supported the government in the capital Sana’a.
Speaking on Lebanese television, Amirabdollahian played down the prospect of reconciliation with the Saudis. Describing relations with Riyadh as “not good,” the foreign minister stressed that it was the Saudis who cut ties with Iran, pointing out that Tehran enjoyed “friendly relations” with other Gulf Arab states such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
At a later meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Amirabdollahian returned to the subject of the Vienna talks, saying he did not seek a “prolongation” of the negotiating process. Talks in the Austrian capital on reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the technical name for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — have continued for a year without agreement.
Amirabdollahian said he was “optimistic and serious” about the eventual outcome of the talks. “In our view, the agreement should include the maximal removal of US sanctions,” he said.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Wednesday that the US and its allies had made progress in Vienna but outstanding issues remained, and it was unclear if they would be resolved.