Israeli officials don't believe Tehran will accept the latest text Western negotiators have agreed upon as delegates returned home Monday following the most recent Iran nuclear talks in Vienna.
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The U.S. was quick to announce it would back the text circulated by the EU meant to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, while Iran is expected to give an answer in the coming days.
Contrary to the Iranian diplomats involved in the negotiations, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is believed to be opposed to any deal that doesn't secure larger gains for Iran, with Israeli officials saying last week that they don't see any evidence of him changing his mind.
“There wasn’t any strategic shift in terms of the Iranians,” one Israeli official argued. “They don’t want to accept this agreement, and they will struggle to accept anything that isn’t a significant improvement of the original nuclear deal,” the official added.
Israeli diplomatic officials said they were unsurprised by the latest round of talks, arguing that the negotiations failed to reach any actual outcome.
“There was momentary optimism, but very quickly it turned out to be contrived optimism meant to pressure the Iranians into making a decision, hopefully accepting the text as it was presented,” the officials added.
After 16 months of torturous on-and-off indirect negotiations to restore the deal, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell suggested there was no more room for negotiation on the draft now on the table, which the EU says addresses Iran’s nuclear activities and the sanctions imposed on it for it.
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“What can be negotiated has been negotiated, and it’s now in a final text,” Borrell wrote on Twitter. “However, behind every technical issue and every paragraph lies a political decision that needs to be taken in the capitals.”
The text includes guarantees that foreign companies will be able to invest in Iran or operate there once sanctions are lifted, without fearing the repercussions of any party withdrawing from the deal, as the United States did in 2018 under President Donald Trump.
But Iran demanded more drastic concessions outside the scope of the original agreement, including over an International Atomic Energy Agency probe into undeclared nuclear material found in the country. Any compromise or breakthrough on this issue – which hasn’t happened yet – might be a sign that Tehran would be willing to sign the agreement.
Either way, if Iran indeed opposes the final text, it might still try and buy more time with calling for further negotiations. Israel is preparing for such a scenario, which would let Tehran keep moving forward with its nuclear program.
Another scenario Israel is preparing for is an agreement being signed anyway, or the talks completely breaking down, leading to an open confrontation. "Israel hopes that the world powers won't let the Iranians continue stalling like that," an Israeli official said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.