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Incoming president Raisi gives a speech. Photo: Mohsen Esmaeilzadeh/ISNA News Agency via Getty

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council has rejected a draft agreement negotiated indirectly with the U.S. over the past three months in Vienna, a government spokesman said Thursday. However, another spokesman later denied that there was any "agreement" to reject in the first place.

Why it matters: Either way, the statements seem to indicate that incoming president Ebrahim Raisi will seek to renegotiate the understandings reached in Vienna to seek a better deal for Iran. They also confirm that no deal on Iran's nuclear program will be reached before Raisi, a hardliner, takes office next month.

Between the lines: The Supreme National Security Council makes Iran's most sensitive foreign policy decisions, and the special committee overseeing the Vienna talks consists of hardliners and members of Raisi's incoming government.

  • In order to both return to the 2015 deal, the U.S. must lift sanctions on Iran, which must in turn unwind its recent nuclear activities that violate the accord.

What they're saying: Ali Rabiee, a spokesman for the outgoing government of President Hassan Rouhani said that the outgoing government finished negotiating a draft agreement for a mutual return to compliance, which he claimed included the lifting of most of the sanctions.

  • "However, the committee formed in the Supreme National Security Council decided the draft agreement is incompatible with the law passed by parliament in December about resuming Iran’s nuclear program," he said.
  • Rabiee added the final decision, made at the highest levels in Iran, was that the negotiations will be postponed until after Raisi's government is formed and a new negotiating team is assembled.
  • But a spokesman for the Security Council, Keyvan Khosravi, said the council's members had discussed "a number of important issues on which the Vienna talks have failed to reach an agreement due to the bullying of the U.S. and some European parties."
  • "Saying that there was an agreement or disagreement about something which is not real isn’t relevant," Khosravi added.

The other side: The Biden administration has been pushing for a deal before Raisi takes office. A U.S. official told Axios last month that if an agreement wasn't reached before then, it would raise "serious questions" about whether one would be achievable at all.

  • The State Department has also denied that any final agreement was reached in Vienna and stressed that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."

What’s next: If talks are indeed postponed until a new negotiating team is in place, it could take months before diplomacy is resumed.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect Khosravi's statement.

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Bezos beats Branson in space billionaires' battle for attention

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Imtiyaz Shaikh (Anadolu Agency), Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos' flight into space generated more interest from the public than Richard Branson's, and both billionaires overshadowed their respective space companies.

Why it matters: Data shows an outsized public interest in the personalities at the center of the space trips, compared to the companies behind them — which could reinforce public suspicion that the ventures were partly vanity plays.

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Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz became on Sunday the first Team USA Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver .86 seconds later.

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