Editor’s Note: This tracker is most recently updated as of 30 June, 2022.
Following the breakdown in indirect talks between the United States and Iran in Qatar last week, prospects for a return to mutual compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), appear slim. The current impasse in the negotiations comes at a particularly precarious time as the Iranian regime is just ten days from possessing sufficient enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb. At the same time, regional tensions are escalating, with Israel accelerating covert operations in Iran against Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officials and nuclear scientists, while Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states discuss ways to strengthen defensive military cooperation against Iran. Against this backdrop, U.S. officials are reportedly considering “plan B” options — including expanded sanctions and possible military action–should the nuclear negotiations fail.
What follows is a collection of publicly available statements from key stakeholders on this issue since the negotiations stalled in March 2022. The countries selected below, with the exception of Israel and Saudi Arabia, were part of the P5+1 group that negotiated the original Iran nuclear deal in 2015 (and, with the exception of the United States, remain participants in the JCPOA). Israel and Saudi Arabia are included in the list due to their concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and regional activities. The statements are intended to illustrate where key players in the negotiations and the region stand on the prospects of a revitalized nuclear agreement.
Readers are invited to submit any statements here that we might have missed. We will update the tracker as the negotiations continue to unfold in Doha, Qatar, and beyond.
- May 27, 2022: Speaking at the World Economic Forum in May, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian highlighted the economic benefits to Iran of a return to the JCPOA. In a statement released after the event, the regime said that the negotiations had slowed as a result of a series of issues, including “obtaining the necessary guarantees, ensuring that the components of maximum pressure are removed, and ensuring the full economic benefit of Iran, to which the US has delayed the necessary responses.”
- June 3, 2022: Before the E3 statement was released — after which the regime removed cameras from its nuclear sites — the regime was publicly reiterating its support for a resolution in Vienna. In a call with the Foreign Minister of Singapore Vivian Balakrishnan, Abdollahian stressed Iran’s seriousness to “reach a good, stable and strong agreement, saying an agreement is available if all parties adhere to diplomacy and commitments with realism and not threats.”
- June 9, 2022: Iran released two statements, one which stated that a nuclear weapon is not an ambition of the government and that it runs contrary to its Islamic principles, and once which rejected the joint statement from the United Kingdom, France and Germany, known as the E3, regarding Iran’s compliance with IAEA inspectors as “political, incorrect and unconstructive action.”
- June 13, 2022: The spokesman for the Foregin Ministry suggested that Iran remains open to negotiations, saying that all the actions it has taken regarding its nuclear program are “reversible” and that an agreement over its nuclear program would require the US to “to overcome this illusion of leverage” and to return to its 2015 JCPOA obligations.
- June 13, 2022: Abdollahian testified before Iranian Majles (parliament) that he was optimistic that the steps designed to persuade Iran’s western counterparts to return to the nuclear deal would be implemented in such a manner that Iran’s demands would be taken into account.
- June 27, 2022: At a joint press conference with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles, Abdollahian said that Iran was prepared to resume talks in Vienna. “Today we had long but positive talks with the European Union,” he said. Borrell said that the main purpose of the visit was to break the deadlock with Iran and that the two sides are to resume JCPOA talks quickly within the next coming days.
The United States
- March 27, 2022: In a joint press conference with Israel’s foreign minister Yair Lapid in March, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the United States remains committed to a full return to the JCPOA and sees it as the best way of constraining Iran’s nuclear ambition. However, he added that whether there is a deal or not, the United States’ “core principle of Iran never acquiring a nuclear weapon is unwavering. One way or another, we will continue to coordinate closely with our Israeli partners on the way forward.”
- May 25, 2022: During testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley said that he was “not particularly optimistic, to put it mildly,” of success in negotiations with Iran but insisted nevertheless that continued diplomacy remains the best option for the United States. “The military option cannot resolve this issue” and prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, Malley said. Despite pressure from Israel to consider a military response, he added, “the only option here is the diplomatic one.”
- June 7, 2022: The United States blamed Iran for the failure of all sides to reach a new deal over the country’s nuclear program. In a statement to the IAEA’s Board of Governors, the U.S. officials said that “What we need is a willing partner in Iran. In particular, Iran would need to drop demands for sanctions lifting that clearly go beyond the JCPOA and that are now preventing us from concluding a deal.”
- June 14, 2022: In an interview, Blinken criticized Tehran’s decision to remove monitoring cameras, saying it has made negotiations “even more difficult than it already is.” He placed the onus on returning to the 2015 agreement solely on Iran, saying that “the details [of the deal] are there if Iran chooses to move forward in getting back into compliance. What’s happened is that Iran has basically sought to insert extraneous issues into this negotiation that had nothing to do with the JCPOA.”
The E3 (The United Kingdom, France and Germany)
- May 24, 2022: The British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office released a joint communique with the government of Qatar following a meeting of the two nations’ leaders. In the statement, both leaders committed to finding diplomatic means of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. “The leaders recognised the potential role of a restored and fully implemented JCPOA in supporting regional stability,” the statement said. “Both parties noted that a diplomatic solution remains the best way to ensure Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively used for peaceful purposes. They urged all parties to seize this opportunity to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.”
- June 9, 2022: Germany, France and the United Kingdom, collectively known as the E3, released a statement on the current status of the negotiations. In the statement, they said that “there has been a viable deal on the table since March 2022, which would return Iran to compliance with its JCPOA commitments and the US to the deal. We regret that Iran has not seized the diplomatic opportunity to conclude the deal. We urge it to do so now. We are ready to conclude the deal.” The statement continued, condemning the Iranian regime for “installing additional advanced centrifuges” and for its decision to end “all JCPOA-related transparency measures.” It concluded by saying that “these actions only aggravate the situation and complicate our efforts to restore full implementation of the JCPOA. They also cast further doubt on Iran’s commitment to a successful outcome. We urge Iran to resume application of the Additional Protocol and of all JCPOA-related monitoring and verification measures, cease its nuclear escalation, and urgently conclude the deal currently on the table to restore the JCPOA, while this is still possible.”
- June 9, 2022: On the same day, the E3 released another statement that affirmed its commitment to the implementation of IAEA safeguards in Iran. The statement condemned the regime for failing to comply with those measures by failing to “provide technically credible explanations regarding the presence of nuclear material.” It further urged them to comply with all the necessary regulations imposed by the IAEA.
- March 5, 2022: The Russian government announced that western sanctions imposed following the invasion of Ukraine present a roadblock to a revival of the JCPOA. At the time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the sanctions on Russia had created a “problem” from Moscow’s perspective. “It would have all been fine, but that avalanche of aggressive sanctions that have erupted from the West – and which I understand has not yet stopped – demand additional understanding by lawyers above all,” Lavrov said. Lavrov demanded that the United States guarantee that Russia’s trade and investment with Iran would not be hindered by these sanctions. Ten days later, Russia announced that it had received those guarantees, signaling their support for the deal proceeding.
- June 8, 2022: In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi about ongoing JCPOA negotiations. In a readout following the call, Moscow said that “when considering the situation around the Iranian nuclear program, the need was noted for continuing diplomatic efforts in order to reach a final agreement that would ensure the preservation and full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 of July 20, 2015, which approved it,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
- June 11, 2022: In the aftermath of the condemnation of Iran’s failure to comply with IAEA inspections, Russia’s Permanent Representative in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said that a deal may still be possible. Russia had voted against condemning the regime for its failure to comply with the IAEA regulations. “It is too early to say that the situation has completely frozen, and that it has reached a dead end,” Ulyanov said. “Maybe, we now need to try to revive the talks in some way, all this is not easy, of course, because after the adoption of the resolution, the Iranians will take an extra pause, I think,” he added. He suggested that the main parties need to focus on returning to the negotiating table, observing that “there are still opportunities, and at the same time, the IAEA secretariat and Iran should be encouraged to continue dialogue on the so-called outstanding issues.”
- June 23, 2022: Lavrov stressed Russia’s support for a nuclear agreement at a meeting with his Iranian counterpart. During the meeting, the two leaders discussed improving their bilateral relationship, Iran’s regional concerns and Russia’s support for the revival of the 2015 nuclear agreement.
- June 2, 2022: China joined Russia in refusing to condemn Tehran for its refusal to cooperate with IAEA inspectors. A tweet issued by Beijing’s permanent mission to U.N. bodies in Vienna cited a foreign ministry spokesman opposing “relevant countries’ moves to pressure” Tehran by raising a resolution at the IAEA quarterly board meeting in June.
- June 24, 2022: Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi encouraged the United States to engage with Iran on the nuclear negotiations. In a call with Abdollahian, Yi said that “The US side should earnestly recognise its responsibilities and respond positively to reasonable demands of the Iranian side.” In the call, Abdollahian laid the blame on the stalled negotiations on the “bullying behavior of the United States.”
- June 3, 2022: At a meeting with the chair of the IAEA, former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet outlined Israel’s position on the potential nuclear deal, saying that while Israel hopes that a diplomatic solution can be reached “it reserves the right to self-defense and to action against Iran in order to block its nuclear program should the international community not succeed in the relevant time frame.”
- June 3, 2022: Israel informed the IAEA that it would prefer a diplomatic solution to the question of Iran’s nuclear programme but that it would take action if necessary. The statement indicated that, “while it prefers diplomacy in order to deny Iran the possibility of developing nuclear weapons, Israel reserves the right to self-defense and action against Iran to stop its nuclear programme if the international community fails to do so within the relevant time-frame.”
- June 8, 2022: The Israeli government was quick to praise the IAEA for censuring Iran over its failure to explain the presence of undisclosed nuclear materials. “The time has come for the international community to support the agency’s integrity and professionalism and to act against Iran with all the means at its disposal,” a June 8 press release read.
- June 15, 2022: At a meeting with the President of the EU Commission Ursula Von der Leyen, Bennet commended EU leaders for their recent IAEA censure of Iran. He criticized the regime for hiding information from inspectors and subsequently turning off inspection cameras. “Iran’s belligerent actions should be a wake-up call for the international community and should be met with clear and strong consequences – increased pressure and holding Iran accountable at the UN Security Council,” he said. “The only way for Iran to be stopped is if we act and stop them.”
- May 24, 2022: The Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud called on the United States to ensure that any revived nuclear agreement with Iran is holistic and addresses Iran’s regional destabilizing activity. “Now of course the JCPOA, if it happens, will be potentially a good thing if it’s a good deal,” Prince Faisal said. “But for us, it is most important that we address the holistic issues — the nuclear nonproliferation, regional activity — and that can be done, but it needs a sincere desire to look to the future rather than the past.”
- June 9, 2022: Saudi Arabia called on Iran to comply with the IAEA and clarify the agency’s outstanding issues relating to Iran’s undeclared sources of uranium. Prince Abdullah bin Khalid bin Sultan, the Kingdom’s ambassador to Austria, expressed his country’s support for the efforts made by the agency to maintain the safeguards system to limit Iran’s nuclear ambition. He praised the IAEA’s censure of the regime.
- June 22, 2022: Saudi Arabian and Jordanian leaders announced their support for the Iranian nuclear deal in a joint communique. “The two sides stressed the importance of redoubling efforts to confront extremism and work to combat terrorism in all its forms, confront its ideological roots, dry up its sources, stop all means of financing it, and spread the values of religious, cultural and moderation,” the statement read.