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Iranian negotiator Abbas Araghchin Vienna. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty

With the Iranian presidential elections looming, very little progress has been made so far in the fifth round of indirect talks in Vienna between the U.S. and Iran, two sources briefed on the talks tell me.

Why it matters: The Iranian elections on June 18 are likely to strengthen the conservative camp, with Ebrahim Raisi — the leader of Iran's judiciary and a close confidant of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — the favorite to win.

Driving the news: U.S. officials expressed cautious optimism last week heading into the fifth round of talks.

  • But little progress has been made in recent days on key issues like Iran’s development of advanced centrifuges that can dramatically shorten the "breakout time" to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.

What they're saying: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani continued to express optimism in a speech on Wednesday, saying the main issues had been agreed upon. 

  • Iran’s chief negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, has sounded less optimistic this week than during previous rounds, though he said on Wednesday that the parties had reached a point where "all believe that the differences are not unresolvable."
  • Enrique Mora, who heads the EU delegation in Vienna, told reporters at the end of the fifth round of talks that he hoped a deal could be reached in the next round of talks next week.
  • “We are in a moment of taking the hard decisions. We will go for consultation in the capitals and come back next week with fresh ideas. We are on a good track," Mora said. “I think the sixth round could be the last round."

A senior European diplomat told me the fifth round of negotiations has been intense and productive, but "it has also been increasingly difficult as we hone in on the most difficult issues of the negotiation."

“We continued to make progress and important parts of a future deal have now been fleshed out, but the most difficult decisions lie ahead. We have of course worked based on the principle of nothing is agreed to all is agreed. We understand that time is on nobody’s side. Decision time is coming up."
— Senior European diplomat

Go deeper

Aug 28, 2021 - World

Israeli PM tells Biden he won't publicly campaign against Iran deal

President Biden greets Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House on Aug. 27. Photo: GPO/ Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told President Biden in their meeting on Friday at the White House that although he is against a U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, he isn’t going to publicly campaign against it like his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, two U.S. sources briefed on the meeting told Axios.

Why it matters: Biden and his senior advisers are veterans of the intense confrontations between Netanyahu and former President Obama on Iran.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Gottlieb: CDC hampered U.S. response to COVID

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The CDC moved too slowly at several points in the coronavirus pandemic, ultimately hindering the U.S. response, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb writes in a new book, Uncontrolled Spread.

The big picture: The book argues that American intelligence agencies should have a much bigger role in pandemic preparedness, even if that's sometimes at the expense of public health agencies like the CDC.

911's digital makeover

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A next-generation 911 would allow the nation's 6,000 911 centers to accept texts, videos and photos.

The big picture: U.S. emergency communications have remained stubbornly analog, but Congress is about to take another run at dragging 911 into the digital age.