The United States is in talks with Iran to chart steps that could lead to curbs on its nuclear program, the release of some detained American citizens, and an end to the freeze on some Iranian assets abroad.
Western and Iranian officials revealed these talks, and these steps can be described as an “understanding” and not an agreement that requires review by the US Congress, according to Reuters news agency, which indicated that many members of Congress oppose granting Iran benefits because of what they call “its military assistance to Russia and its repressive actions.” domestically and its support for proxies attacking US interests in the region.”
US State Department spokesman Matt Miller denied any agreement with Iran, but said Washington wanted Tehran to de-escalate tensions, curb its nuclear program, stop supporting proxy attacks in the region, stop supporting Russia’s war on Ukraine and release detained US citizens.
“We continue to use diplomatic means to achieve all of these goals,” Miller added, without elaborating.
“Call it what you want, whether it’s an interim agreement, an interim agreement or a joint understanding, both sides want to prevent further escalation,” an Iranian official said.
He explained that initially “this will include the exchange of prisoners and the release of part of the frozen Iranian assets.”
He said other steps could include exemptions from US sanctions linked to Iran for exporting oil in return for halting uranium enrichment at 60 percent and greater Iranian cooperation with the UN International Atomic Energy Agency.
The US special envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, met Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, after months of Tehran’s refusal to communicate directly.
“I would call it a truce understanding,” said a Western official, who requested anonymity, adding that there was more than one round of indirect talks in Oman between US National Security Council official Brett McGurk and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani.
The Western official explained that the idea is to create a status quo that is acceptable to all, and to make Iran avoid the Western red line, which is enriching uranium to a degree of purity of 90%, which is the stage that is usually seen as a kind of armament.
The official said that in addition to halting enrichment at 60%, the two sides are discussing more Iranian cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and not installing more advanced centrifuges in return for a “big transfer” of Iranian money abroad.
pressure and criticism
On the other hand, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the US House of Representatives, Michael McCaul, sent a letter to President Joe Biden expressing his concern about the recent revelations that the administration is seeking to conclude a new nuclear agreement with Iran. McCall added that instead of using diplomatic influence and military deterrence to discourage Iran from engaging in what he called malign activities, this administration is rewarding Tehran’s bad behavior in exchange for a false promise to stop the escalation, as he put it.
For his part, British Minister for Middle East Affairs Tariq Ahmed said that Iran had breached its obligations towards the nuclear agreement by increasing its enrichment of uranium, and the British minister urged – in a statement to Al-Jazeera – Tehran to abandon what he described as malicious destabilizing activities in the region and to stop its support for the Russian war on Ukraine.
After it failed to revive the Iranian nuclear agreement concluded in 2015, Washington hopes to restore some restrictions on Iran to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon that could threaten Israel and spark an arms race in the region, while Tehran says it does not aspire to develop a nuclear weapon.
The 2015 agreement – from which former US President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 – puts an end to Tehran’s enrichment of uranium at a purity of 3.67% and its stockpile of this substance at 202.8 kilograms, which are limits that Tehran has exceeded since then in response to the US withdrawal from the agreement.