Aug 11, 2022 - World

Iran talks approach take it or leave it phase

Illustration of a question mark with a nuclear symbol as the dot on the bottom.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

EU mediators have submitted the "final text" of a nuclear agreement to Iran and the other signatories of the 2015 deal, and they have requested a "yes" or "no" by Monday, the WSJ reports.

Why it matters: Europe's top diplomats have described this updated text and the latest round of talks in Vienna as a final push to get the deal across the line.

  • Per WSJ, the text includes a concession around the handling of an ongoing investigation into undeclared nuclear material in Iran. The deal's signatories would urge the UN to close it if Iran offers certain clarifications.
  • Iran has reportedly made concessions of its own, dropping its demands that the U.S. remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from a terror blacklist and provide written guarantees that no future U.S. president will withdraw from the deal.

Yes, but: Iran has also indicated that more talks might be needed, despite the EU's insistence that the text is final.

  • U.S. officials have been insisting for months that the window to save the deal is almost closed. They remained pessimistic heading into the latest round of talks.
  • Still, the new concessions could suddenly make a revival of the deal — which seemed extremely unlikely just a week ago — a real possibility.

What to watch: Even if the deal is restored, it will be difficult if not impossible to regain the "continuity of knowledge" around Iran's nuclear program that was lost after Tehran stopped complying, according to Ernest Moniz, who helped negotiate the 2015 deal as Barack Obama's energy secretary.

  • "Without that continuity of knowledge, we're kind of back to square one in terms of whether or not Iran could be pursuing a covert weapons program," Moniz told Axios in an interview.
  • The original deal was based on the idea that if Iran was caught cheating, it would face "even greater sanctions," Moniz says. In the wake of Donald Trump's withdrawal, "we would have a devil of a time restoring the international coherence that's important for effective sanctions."
  • The "runway" to implement a deal before another president could rip it up is getting short, Moniz notes, and the political climates in both Tehran and Washington are unfavorable, particularly around the midterms.
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