IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Iran nuclear talks to resume this week in Qatar

It’s unclear whether the talks will produce any major progress on restoring the nuclear deal designed to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, left, meets with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Joseph Borrell
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, left, meets with the E.U.’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Joseph Borrell, right, at Foreign Ministry headquarters in Tehran on Saturday. Atta Kenare / AFP via Getty Images

Negotiations between Iran and world powers on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal are set to resume this week in the Qatari capital of Doha after the talks broke down in March, a Biden administration spokesperson said Monday.

A State Department spokesperson said there would be “indirect discussions” in Doha this week.

“We are grateful to our E.U. partners, who continue to convey messages and are working to advance these negotiations,” the spokesperson said. 

The U.S. remained ready to agree and implement a mutual return to the 2015 agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but Iran needed to abandon demands that extend outside the parameters of the accord, the spokesperson said.

“We are prepared to immediately conclude and implement the deal we negotiated in Vienna for mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA. But for that, Iran needs to decide to drop their additional demands that go beyond the JCPOA,” the spokesperson said.

Iran’s U.N. mission and the Qatari embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Robert Malley, the U.S. special envoy for the Iran nuclear talks, met E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Brussels ahead of the indirect discussions with Iran. While in Doha, Malley will also meet with the Qatari foreign minister, the State Department spokesperson confirmed.

Borrell had signaled on Saturday that the negotiations would resume after meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Tehran.

“There are decisions that have to be taken in Tehran and in Washington. But we agreed today that this visit will be followed by the resumption of negotiations … to try to solve the last outstanding issues,” Borrell said.

Amir-Abdollahian said Iran is “prepared to resume the talks in the coming days” and urged Washington to undertake “responsible and committed actions” to ensure Iran receives the full benefits of sanctions relief under the 2015 nuclear deal.

It would mark the first time negotiations take place in Qatar. Previous nuclear talks took place in Vienna.

The JCPOA was designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and imposed strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activity in return for an easing of U.S. and international economic sanctions. But former President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of deal in 2018, reimposed the sanctions and introduced hundreds of additional sanctions on Iran.

Since the U.S. withdrew, Iran has steadily expanded its uranium enrichment work beyond the limits set in the deal. Iran now effectively has enough fissile material to build an atomic bomb, according to U.S. officials and arms control experts.

The Biden administration has sought to revive the deal and negotiations came close to an agreement before March. But Tehran has demanded that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be removed from a U.S. terrorism blacklist, a step that the White House views as outside the scope of the original 2015 deal.

The sanctions were placed on the IRGC by the Trump administration. 

It was a positive sign that the negotiations were starting up again, but there was no sign of an imminent breakthrough or an innovative proposal that could break the diplomatic impasse, said Ali Vaez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group think tank.

“I don’t expect much to come from this round, “ Vaez said.

News of the planned nuclear negotiations followed the dismissal of one of Iran’s most powerful figures, Hossein Taeb, the intelligence chief of the IRGC.

The IRGC announced Taeb’s extraordinary sacking last week without explaining why he was being forced out after 13 years on the job. Taeb was a senior Shiite cleric and was replaced by an IRGC officer, Gen. Mohammad Kazemi. With Taeb’s exit, there are now no clerics in top leadership positions in the IRGC.

In recent years, Iran has suffered a series of major security failures, including the assassination of prominent Iranian nuclear scientists, the killing of a top military officer in May and the theft of sensitive nuclear documents. Iran has blamed Israel for the incidents and vowed to retaliate.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet alluded to covert Israeli operations in an  interview with The New York Times last week.

Bennet said that when Iranians “hit us through proxies or directly, they will pay a price.” 

“It turns out these guys are more vulnerable than they seem,” Bennet added. “The Iranian regime is rotten, corrupt — and incompetent.”