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Some New Iranian Demands to Renew Nuclear Deal Are Not Possible

Iran’s parliament has conditioned its agreement to sign a renewed nuclear deal on a batch of new conditions.

The conditions include a US Congress-approved compromise that Washington will not withdraw again from the deal, Iranian state media reported on Sunday.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted a statement signed by 250 Iranian lawmakers that said: “The United States should give legal guarantees, approved by its Congress, that it will not exit the pact again.”

The lawmakers also demanded that the US not “use pretexts to trigger the snapback mechanism,” which would reinstate sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said on Sunday that US President Joe Biden should issue an executive order that would lift some sanctions previously imposed on Iran to show his goodwill in favor of the renewal of the deal.

The deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was originally established in 2015, and aimed to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions imposed on Tehran.

The US withdrew from the deal in 2018 under former President Donald Trump, claiming that it had proven that the Iranian promises under the agreement were unfulfilled.

The current talks in Vienna, which began nearly a year ago, are part of an effort that seeks to return the US to the nuclear deal.

The talks have been paused since March 11, after Russia demanded guarantees that Western sanctions imposed following its February 24 invasion of Ukraine would not damage its trade with Iran. Days later, Moscow said it had received the necessary guarantees.

Congress cannot prevent a future administration from leaving a diplomatic agreement

Farian Sabahi, a historian who teaches International Relations of the Middle East at Insubria University in Varese, Italy, told The Media Line that negotiations between Iran and the world powers have progressed most of the way toward reviving the deal, but that some issues are still unresolved.

In recent days, Iranian officials announced that the deal was near completion, making the timing of Tehran’s announcement of new conditions critical for the finalizing of the deal.

Hamid Chriet, a French-Moroccan political analyst and columnist, told The Media Line that the timing of the announcement is convenient for Iran and enlarges the possibility that the US could lift some of the sanctions before the finalization of the deal.

“The parliamentarians’ request comes in the final phase of the negotiations between Iran and Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China, with the indirect participation of the United States, to save the 2015 pact. The possibility of the US lifting sanctions on certain Iranian individuals is more likely,” Chriet said.

Sabahi says that Teheran is imposing new conditions due to a lack of trust in the US commitment to the deal.

“Iran is setting new conditions because there is no trust in its counterparts: the US unilaterally withdrew and the European Union was unable to keep the deal working because of the US secondary sanctions,” she said.

Sabahi believes that the unilateral withdrawal from the accord by the US in 2018 and the reimposition of biting economic sanctions under a “maximum pressure” campaign, prompted Iran to begin rolling back on its own commitments.

However, some of the new conditions set by Tehran are not viable, analysts say, especially the one requiring the US government to commit to not leaving the revived nuclear deal.

“Congress cannot prevent a future administration from leaving a diplomatic agreement,” according to Alan Goldsmith, advisor for Washington outreach and policy for United Against Nuclear Iran, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that seeks to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

He told The Media Line that Iranian leaders, including members of parliament, have previously made such demands, and they could have been made in order to achieve a better position for negotiations concerning other issues.

“It’s possible that they think the US can actually give such a guarantee, or that they are using the demand as leverage to achieve other concessions in the negotiations,” he said.

The Biden administration, under bipartisan pressure from Congress, is refusing to agree to lift the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization

Among the major issues yet to be resolved, for instance, is the Iranian requirement to remove the Revolutionary Guard from the US terror list. However, US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley said last month that the Guard would remain “sanctioned by American law” even under a new agreement.

Goldsmith believes Iran’s decision to set new conditions now could be connected to the Guard.

“The Biden administration, under bipartisan pressure from Congress, is refusing to agree to lift the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization,” he said.

Nothing is certain, Chriet notes, adding that “the outcome could be critical for Biden if there is not a serious agreement between the two parties.”

Goldsmith says that what will happen next is not clear yet. “We’ll see if the US or Iran blinks,” he added.