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After 16 Months, Some Glimmers of Optimism About Iran Nuclear Deal

BRUSSELS — For the primary time in lots of months, European officers expressed growing optimism on Tuesday {that a} revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal may very well be agreed upon by Iran and the USA.

Simply earlier than midnight Monday in Tehran, Iran despatched its promised response to what the European Union has known as a closing textual content of an settlement to revive the nuclear deal, referred to as the Joint Complete Plan of Motion, or J.C.P.O.A., which former President Donald J. Trump deserted in 2018.

The response, after robust inside talks inside Iran, was encouraging, officers stated. It was not a whole sure, however it made no important new objections. As an alternative, Iran is in search of additional clarifications on assurances that the USA would carry punishing financial sanctions and that such assurances can be legitimate as soon as President Biden leaves workplace.

Earlier on Monday, Iran’s overseas minister had known as on the USA to point out flexibility to resolve three remaining points. Iran’s state-run IRNA information company supplied no particulars Tuesday, however stated: “The variations are on three points, through which the USA has expressed its verbal flexibility in two circumstances, however it must be included within the textual content. The third problem is said to guaranteeing the continuation of the J.C.P.O.A., which is dependent upon the realism of the USA.”

Nabila Massrali, talking for the European Union, stated of Iran’s response: “We’re finding out it and are consulting with the opposite J.C.P.O.A. contributors and the U.S. on the way in which forward.”

The prospect of a return to energy of Mr. Trump, who known as the 2015 deal the worst in historical past earlier than breaking it aside, has hung over these 16 months of talks. Mr. Biden’s hopes for a greater deal, “longer and stronger,” as his officers put it early on, have been dashed. However Iran has moved to this point forward on stockpiling extremely enriched uranium that it may now construct a nuclear weapon, which it has at all times denied desirous to do.

The 2015 deal decreased Iran’s stockpiles of enriched uranium sufficiently to provide the USA and its allies no less than one 12 months’s “breakout time” — the period of time Iran would wish to construct a bomb if it selected to. That “breakout time” can now be measured in days or perhaps weeks, which is why Mr. Biden desires to revive the previous deal, even whether it is weaker than earlier than, as a result of Iran must quit practically all of the enriched uranium it has stockpiled since 2018.

Nonetheless, Iran has within the interim developed technical data about enrichment that can’t be deleted and discovered tips on how to construct superior centrifuges, banned beneath the unique deal, which critics say makes even a revival of the deal much less useful.

As of the final public rely, Iran has a stockpile of some 3,800 kilograms of enriched uranium, effectively past the bounds of the 2015 deal. Below that deal, Tehran may enrich uranium solely as much as 3.67 % purity, whereas sustaining a stockpile of uranium of 300 kilograms beneath fixed scrutiny of surveillance cameras and worldwide inspectors.

However now, Iran enriches uranium as much as 60 % purity — ineffective for civilian purposes and a brief step away from bomb grade.

On the similar time, in a separate dispute with the Worldwide Atomic Power Company, the U.N. nuclear watchdog that’s supposed to watch any deal, Iran has turned off key surveillance cameras and never allowed the company to switch reminiscence playing cards.

Notably, the Iranian response didn’t embody its earlier acknowledged demand that the I.A.E.A. drop its three-year investigation into unexplained deposits of extremely enriched uranium, which Iran has refused to account for. However officers stated that the dispute with the I.A.E.A. was an essential however separate problem from the nuclear deal, which might not block settlement or implementation of the deal.

On Monday, in Washington, the State Division spokesman, Ned Worth, stated the USA would share its personal response with the European Union, which is chairing the talks, and urged Iran to drop “extraneous calls for” that transcend the nuclear deal.

“The one approach to obtain a mutual return to compliance with the J.C.P.O.A. is for Iran to drop additional unacceptable calls for that transcend the scope of the J.C.P.O.A.,” Mr. Worth stated.

Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York.

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