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The setting for the talks, in Vienna's Grand Hotel. Photo: EU Delegation in Vienna via Getty

This week's nuclear talks in Vienna "met expectations" but did not assuage U.S. doubts about Iran's willingness to negotiate in good faith over the 2015 nuclear deal, a senior State Department official told reporters on Friday.

The state of play: Iran refused to meet directly with the U.S. but held three days of talks with the nuclear deal's other signatories, while the U.S. — represented in Vienna by Iran envoy Rob Malley — communicated indirectly through envoys, primarily from the European Union.

  • The talks are expected to continue in a similar format starting the middle of next week, the State Department official said.

Why it matters: President Biden promised on the campaign trail to return to compliance with the deal by lifting sanctions if Iran reversed its breaches of the nuclear elements of the deal. The Vienna talks are the most significant step yet toward kickstarting that process.

  • Two working groups are now discussing the steps that both sides would have to take.
  • But the talks will be “heading toward an impasse” if Iran continues to insist that the U.S. lift all sanctions imposed on Iran under former President Trump, including those not linked to its nuclear program, the State Department official said.
  • Between the lines: The U.S. has said some of Trump's sanctions will stay on, while those that violate the deal or deprive Iran of the benefits it stood to gain from it will be lifted.
  • Another issue is sequencing, with Iran continuing to insist that the U.S. make the first move.

What they're saying: “The United States team put forward some very serious ideas, demonstrated a seriousness of purpose," the senior official said. "It remains to be seen whether that seriousness of purpose is matched by Iran."

  • As to Iran's refusal to meet directly, the official said: “We think it would be better if we could sit down with the Iranians. We’re not going to pay a price for that, so if they don’t want to meet with us, too bad.”

What to watch: Iran will hold its National Nuclear Technology Day on Saturday, which typically includes a new announcement on the nuclear program. Any news will offer a "clue into Iran’s thinking," the official said, and potentially "cast doubt on their intentions."

Go deeper

New York prepares for staff shortages from health vaccine mandate

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul during a news conference Tuesday in New York City.. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced Saturday she would declare a state of emergency if there were health worker shortages due to New York's upcoming COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Why it matters: Hochul moved to reassure concerns of staffing shortages in the health care sector in a statement that also outlined plans to call in medically trained National Guard members, workers from outside New York and retirees if necessary when the mandate takes effect Monday.

California to remove word "alien" from state laws

Gov. Gavin Newsom during a September news conference in Oakland, California. Photo: Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

California is removing the word "alien" from its state laws and replacing it with words such as "noncitizen" and "immigrant," Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced.

Why it matters: The word "alien" began to be used in the 1990s "as a political dog whistle to express bigotry and hatred without using traditionally racist language," per a statement from Newsom's office.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It was 563 days ago that the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic. This Axios AM Deep Dive, led by healthcare reporter Caitlin Owens, looks at our Covid future.