Iran and world powers expressed cautious optimism on Monday regarding the prospects of reaching a new nuclear deal, potentially by next week, according to the European Union.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said that he hopes the United States will respond positively as early as this week to a final draft proposal that he has put forward to restore the 2015 JCPOA. Iran has already given its answer, which Borrell deemed as a “reasonable response.”
The sides are now waiting for Washington’s decision.
“I hope that this response allows us to end the negotiations,” Borrell was quoted by several western media outlets as saying. “That’s my hope, but I cannot assure you that this will happen.”
As the Biden administration is still reviewing Iran’s comments on the draft, State Department spokesperson Ned Price also signaled progress in the negotiations.
“We are encouraged by the fact that Iran appears to have dropped some of its non-starter demands, such as lifting the FTO designation of the IRGC. But … there are still some outstanding issues that must be resolved, some gaps that must be bridged if we are able to get there,” Price told reporters on Monday.
Earlier in the day, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, accused the U.S. of "procrastinating" in the negotiations. Kanaani emphasized at a news conference that Tehran expects a sustainable deal.
The contents of the proposed draft have not been made public. Media reports from Israel, Europe, Iran and the U.S. have suggested different versions of what is currently on the table. An Iranian opposition website also paints a concerning picture for Israel.
Israel’s former National Security Advisor Meir Ben Shabbat told ALL ISRAEL NEWS that "Iran has not changed its colors and suddenly become a peacemaker."
"The only thing that has changed is the American rush to the nuclear deal which is forcing countries in the region to rethink their relations with Iran. Let's hope that in the future, this will not have any effects on the normalization with Israel," said Ben Shabbat, who is currently serving as a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies.
Citing unnamed U.S. officials, Axios reported that the Biden administration has been seeking to reassure Israel that it hasn’t agreed to new concessions with Iran.
“A deal might be closer than it was two weeks ago, but the outcome remains uncertain as some gaps remain. In any case, it doesn’t seem to be imminent,” a U.S. official told Israeli journalist Barak Ravid, describing Washington’s message to Jerusalem.
Israel has been ramping up its pressure against the shaping deal, sending a delegation to the White House to call on the Biden administration not to cave in. Israeli National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata is expected to meet with his White House counterpart, Jake Sullivan, to address Israel’s concerns.
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said that “in the current situation, the time has come to walk away from the table. Anything else sends a message of weakness to Iran.”
Meanwhile, Iran International, an Iranian opposition website, claims that U.S. negotiators have agreed to give Iran a long list of concessions. A report published Friday listed the compromises that Iran allegedly was able to extract from the U.S.
The leaked information, according to the site, is based on a recent closed-door press briefing by top Iranian negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani. The briefing allegedly addressed the major issues that have derailed the nuclear-deal negotiations for months, such as Iran flexing its muscles by making far-reaching demands.
According to the report, Iran’s request to remove Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the U.S. State Department’s terror list will not be part of the final nuclear deal. However, the matter is set to be discussed in separate negotiations.
In addition, the U.S. reportedly has guaranteed the Iranian regime that sanctions against the IRGC will only pertain to the organization directly and not to companies that do business with them. Such a move, would de facto empty the “terror” label of any practical significance and make it more “symbolic” in nature, the opposition website stated.
A big concern for Tehran is that a new nuclear deal won’t bind a future – potentially Republican – American president, who might be interested in pulling out of “bad nuclear deal” as former U.S. President Donald Trump did in 2018.
As part of the U.S. guarantee against such a scenario, Iran International reported that American negotiators have agreed that all foreign companies that start working with Iran through the end of Biden’s presidency will remain exempt from the possible reinstatement of U.S. sanctions for two and half years after a U.S. withdrawal.
The report noted that under the deal being shaped, Iran would receive its frozen assets in South Korea, which are estimated to be worth about $7 billion. In exchange, the regime would commit to release all U.S. prisoners in its territory.
The report added that the current drafts on the table do not pertain to Iran’s ballistic missile program or regional policies and actions. They also do not limit Iran’s nuclear breakout time or require Iran to destroy its uranium-enrichment centrifuges.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.