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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.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 25, 2021 - Energy & Environment

What we’re watching during the final countdown to COP26

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

This is shaping up as a critical week for climate policy in the U.S. and worldwide.

Driving the news: Democrats are in the final stages of trying to craft the big social spending and climate package they're trying to move on a thread-the-needle party-line vote.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

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