Iran nuclear talks in Vienna continue dragging on and despite recent weeks of positive developments and optimistic statements of being on the cusp of a restored deal, things are more tense than ever heading into a sixth round of talks set to begin on Thursday.
This is after a briefing issued by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) early this week which alleged Iran is failing to cooperate with the nuclear watchdog after it found nuclear particles at multiple undeclared sites, possibly suggesting a more expanded program than previously believed.
According to The Guardian, citing IAEA head Rafael Grossi, "Grossi’s findings were reported to a board meeting of the IAEA in Vienna, and are deeply awkward for the US, France, Germany and the UK, which have collectively decided that the prize of a revived nuclear deal is so great they will not act on the complaints of the UN nuclear inspectorate, even if this temporarily risks the integrity of the UN inspection process."
Grossi said Monday that his "expectations were not met" while further describing, "I am deeply concerned that nuclear material has been present at the three undeclared locations in Iran and that the current locations of this nuclear material are not known by the agency."
Despite European signatories to the original JCPOA appearing to brush off the accusations, Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued perhaps the most scathing words directed at Tehran thus far through the Vienna negotiations, saying it is "unclear" if Iran is willing to restore the nuclear deal.
Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday, "We’ve been engaged in indirect conversations, as you know, for the last couple of months, and it remains unclear whether Iran is willing and prepared to do what it needs to do to come back into compliance."
This significant statement prompted an immediate response out of the Islamic Republic, with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stating sarcastically on Twitter that it "remains unclear" whether the Biden administration is ready to "bury the failed 'maximum pressure' policy" of Trump and Pompeo...
Zarif further argued that "Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA. Just read paragraph 36.".
Iran has long maintained that it is Washington that blew up the deal through its aggressive sanctions regimen after Trump pulled out in May 2018. Zarif's accusing the Biden admin of basically maintaining the policies of Trump (in terms of the sanctions pressure campaign) and all the while pursuing a restored deal in Vienna, suggested hypocrisy and dishonest dealing on the part of the Democratic administration.