Iran on Sunday rejected an offer to negotiate directly with the United States at an informal meeting proposed by Europeans to restore the nuclear agreement that President Donald J. Trump withdrew nearly three years ago.
Saeed Khatibzadeh, a spokesman for the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that recent actions by Washington and Europeans have led Iran to conclude that the timing of such dialogues is “incorrect”. A few days ago, President Biden ordered a retaliatory strike against Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria, which was related to the recent attacks on the United States and allied forces in Iraq.
Biden has stated that the United States will return to the agreement if Iran first resumes its commitments at the time of signing. Iran has asked the United States to lift all sanctions on Iran, and Iran has recently taken steps to increase uranium enrichment and restrict access to its nuclear facilities by international inspectors.
This stalemate prompted the European signatories to propose an informal meeting of the agreement. Americans will participate in the meeting as guests and the two parties will have the opportunity to contact directly.
Privately, US officials expressed confidence in resolving the timing issue and pointed out that when the nuclear agreement came into effect in early 2016, Iran and the US took a series of precisely coordinated actions to eliminate the question of who is who. take the first step.
But political sensitivity is high.
Biden knew that Republican opponents of the deal were looking for any signs that his new administration had made concessions without getting anything in return. Iran held its presidential election in less than four months, which means that no Iranian official wants to show the will to succumb to the United States.
So far, Mr. Biden has mixed the willingness to re-engage in diplomacy with a moderate military retreat to Iran’s support of militias in Iraq and elsewhere.
The well-intentioned move included the Trump administration’s abandonment of a failed effort to force the re-implementation of United Nations sanctions since the 2015 agreement. Mr. Trump argued that since Iran has resumed production of nuclear materials at the level prohibited by the agreement, these sanctions should be automatically restored to their original positions.
The State Department also eased travel restrictions on Iranian diplomats coming to the United Nations and accepting European invitations for direct dialogue.
But then Biden decided on Thursday to order military strikes on several buildings used by Iranian-backed militiamen Katab Hezbollah and other groups in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border. The strike was a response to a rocket attack that occurred in northern Iraq on February 15, which killed a civilian contractor and wounded an American soldier and a member of the coalition forces.
Biden said the purpose of the strike was to send a message to Iran that “you can’t get away with impunity-be careful.”
As military tensions escalate, Iran is weighing whether it will meet with the Americans. This view is not popular among conservatives in Iran, but it is not popular among many Republican leaders in the United States.
A White House spokesperson said on Sunday that Iran was “disappointed” by Iran’s refusal to talk, but “we are still ready to re-engage in meaningful diplomacy,” Reuters reported.
Henry Rome, a senior analyst focusing on Iran at the political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, said that Iran’s decision to some extent reflects its leaders’ desire to show resilience in the face of American pressure. .
He said in an email: “This is far from a death knell for negotiations.”
Khatibzad said in a speech on Sunday that Iran will respond in kind to Washington’s pressure and concessions.
He said that Iran will lift the sanctions to “restore our commitment.” However, he warned that this would also “respond accordingly to aggressive actions.”
Mr. Roma said that the stalemate clearly shows that the “chaos” of resuming transactions may prove it.
He said: “Even if the overall direction of travel is clear, Washington and Tehran will continue to zigzag in an effort to build influence and deal with their own domestic political considerations.”
Rick Gladstone contributed the report.