US and Iranian diplomats in Vienna to salvage the deal, but who blinks first?

US and Iranian diplomats in Vienna to salvage the deal, but who blinks first?

A few months ago, things were still looking good to the bargain supporters. “When Biden won the election, everyone was in awe of the Iran file,” says nuclear weapons expert Siku van der Meer of the Clingendael Institute. After all, Biden said during his campaign that he would revive the Iran deal. “But then he became president and he did not. Now he says: We want to return, but after that Iran must abide by the agreements.”

Iran, in turn, believes that the United States, which caused the impasse in 2018, is the first to move and should lift economic sanctions. In addition, the state wants assurances that if Irandeal is created again, the United States will not exit again. “The United States had a special place in the 2015 deal. Washington was always allowed to choose whether or not to extend the agreement. I can imagine Iran saying now, ‘We don’t want that again.'”

Concurrent approach

The United States previously suggested lifting the sanctions step by step, but Iran does not want that. “It’s about whoever blinks first,” says van der Meer. And that is also a matter of honor. Ultimately, however, Iran will have to make concessions to get rid of the sanctions. Iran is a small player and the United States is a great power.

One option might be to save the deal is the “simultaneous approach”, whereby America lifts a small portion of the sanctions while Iran begins to scale back its nuclear program. If possible for both parties, Mohr says, it should still be seen.

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In any case, there is a lot of pressure on the negotiations, because there will be presidential elections in Iran next June. The moderate current president, Rouhani, is no longer eligible, so there will be a new president anyway. Van der Meer: “There is a possibility that the hard-liners will win this time, and they are less eager to have a deal with the United States, so there is a hurry. If there is no agreement before the elections, it may be too late.”

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