Iran and World Powers on Renewed Diplomacy

Iran has made maximalist demands ahead of nuclear talks with the world’s six major powers scheduled for November 29. Iran expects the United States to “recognize its fault in ditching” the 2015 deal, lift all U.S. sanctions imposed after the withdrawal in one go, and guarantee that no other U.S. administration will renege on the agreement, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said on November 8.

KhatibzadehBy contrast, the United States has stipulated that both countries must simultaneously return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which set limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. And the Biden administration has said that it cannot guarantee what another president might do.

From April to June 2021, Iran and the world’s six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – held six rounds of talks on restoring the JCPOA. Diplomacy stalled in June during Iran’s presidential campaign and the political transition as Ebrahim Raisi took office and appointed his cabinet in August.

In October, Iran announced a return to the talks, even as tensions escalated between Tehran and Washington.

  • October 20: The U.S. base at al Tanf in southern Syria was hit by drones and rockets in a “deliberate and coordinated attack,” Central Command announced. Iran appeared to be responsible for the attack, which included up to five drones carrying explosives, U.S. officials told the Associated Press. The drones were Iranian but were launched from within Syria, officials told CBS News.
  • October 30: The Pentagon ordered a B-1B bomber based at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota to fly over the Strait of Hormuz, the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. The strategic bomber was escorted by fighters from Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia at different points during the trip. Since November 2020, the Pentagon has ordered eight presence patrols over the Persian Gulf by U.S. bombers to reassure allies and deter aggression in the region.
  • November 7-9: Iran held an annual war game around four key waterways – the Strait of Hormuz, the Sea of Oman, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. “This exercise is a serious warning to our enemies,” Rear Admiral Mahmoud Mousavi, the spokesman for the war game, said. Major General Gholam Ali Rashid, commander of Khatam al Anbiya Headquarters, added that Iran was ready to defend against a U.S. or Israeli attack.
  • November 11: An Iranian naval helicopter circled the USS Essex three times and came within 25 yards of the warship in the Gulf of Oman. The Pentagon later confirmed the incident but said it had “no impact” on the ship’s operations. “Tehran needs to be pressed on why they thought this was a prudent use of their pilots and their aircraft to fly so dangerously close to a US warship,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said on November 15.

The United States and European powers want talks to pick up where they left off in June, but Iran’s new negotiating team may want to reopen issues or make new demands. Iran’s lead negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani (also known as Ali Bagheri), was critical of the JCPOA when it was brokered. Since the 1990s, he has held positions in the foreign ministry, Supreme National Security Council and the national judiciary.

In preparation for the upcoming talks, Bagheri conferred with officials from the other parties to the nuclear deal – Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia. On November 9, he started a European tour that included stops in Paris, Berlin and London. Bagheri said that European powers should guarantee that they will trade with Iran, regardless of what happens in Vienna. The Europeans emphasized that talks should be concluded swiftly.

On November 15, Bagheri had a virtual meeting with Chinese and Russian officials. “It was reiterated that the United States should remove all unlawful sanctions,” he tweeted afterward. The following are remarks by officials from Iran and the world’s major powers on the talks.



President Ebrahim Raisi

Remarks on Nov. 4, 2021: “The negotiations we are considering are result-oriented ones.”

“We will not leave the negotiation table, but we will also stand against the excessive demands that lead to the loss of the interests and rights of the Iranian people.”

“At the same time, we will pursue the lifting of sanctions and the neutralization of sanctions.”


Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian

Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian

In a tweet on Nov. 10, 2021: “These days, Dr. [Ali] Bagheri is engaged in successful talks in Europe. At the negotiating table in Vienna, we are ready to deliver a good agreement. The return of all parties to their commitments is an important and leading principle.”

In a call with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Nov. 8, 2021: “The U.S. withdrawal [from the nuclear deal] and the failure of the three European countries to fulfill their obligations have increasingly deepened mistrust. Therefore, full removal of sanctions is a necessity.”

“On the path to the talks and in media terms, using a language of force and threats is not helpful and the Islamic Republic of Iran will not give in to unfounded propaganda. Any inaccurate comment, which does not comply with the facts, can jeopardize ongoing efforts.”

In tweets on Nov. 2, 2021 in response to new U.S. sanctions on Iran’s drone program: “The White House calls for negotiations with Iran and claims to be ready to return to the JCPOA. Yet it simultaneously imposes new sanctions on Iranian individuals & entities. We are closely examining Mr. Biden's behavior.”

“The purpose of negotiations is not talking for the sake of talking, but to achieve tangible results on the basis of respect for mutual interests. The P4+1 should be ready for negotiations based on mutual interests & rights.”

In an interview with Iran Newspaper published on Oct. 31, 2021: “We should see the three Europeans making moves to pressure the U.S. They should try to revive and reinforce this trust.”

“Theoretically and legally speaking, one may be able to say that we were in a special situation before the conclusion of the JCPOA and were under Article 7 of the U.N. Security Council.”

“Our decision is to return to the negotiating table. … We should see how to act to ensure the rights and interests of our people as much as possible.”

“It is enough for Biden to issue an executive order tomorrow and they (U.S.) announce they are rejoining the pact from the point where his predecessor left the deal.”

“If there is a serious will in Washington to return to the deal, there is no need for all these negotiations at all.”

The JCPOA must be addressed “within its own framework.” Iran rejects the “excessive demands” of the United States and some European cosigners that negotiations should encompass non-nuclear issues.


Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri 

In an op-ed in the "Financial Times" on Nov. 28, 2021: “This week, Iran and five global powers gather in Vienna for so-called “nuclear negotiations.” This very term — which is used to refer to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement — is rife with error. Western countries, in particular the US, work tirelessly to portray 'negotiations' as merely a process to restrict Iran’s legitimate and peaceful nuclear programme...”

“We have two goals: the first is to gain a full, guaranteed and verifiable removal of the sanctions that have been imposed on the Iranian people. Without this, the process will continue indefinitely. 'Negotiations' without an airtight solution benefit no one. The second is to facilitate the legal rights of the Iranian nation to benefit from peaceful nuclear knowledge, especially the all-important enrichment technology for industrial purposes, according to the terms of the international Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).”

“Experience tells us that the West does not seek to implement a deal... From our perspective, the principle of 'mutual compliance' cannot form a proper base for negotiations since it was the US government which unilaterally left the deal.”

In an interview with PressTV on Nov. 13, 2021: “The main purpose of these talks, in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s view, is the removal of the unlawful sanctions that the United States government imposed against the Iranian nation through its violating of the JCPOA and [U.N. Security Council] Resolution 2231.”

The issue of guarantees is “one of the most important topics high on the agenda of the negotiations so that we can have guarantees which prevent the repetition of the blatant violation of an international agreement.”  

In an interview with The Guardian on Nov. 11, 2021: “We need verification [of sanctions relief], and this remains unresolved. It is one of the issues that remains not finalized. It is not enough for the ink to be put on the agreement.”

“This is about an agreement not a policy. If there is a peace agreement between two states, it has the effect of a treaty. This is international law. It is not intended that domestic laws of the US can prevail over an international agreement. That is against international law.”

“The JCPOA has a clear framework and other issues are not relevant. We are not going to negotiate on our defense capabilities or our security.”

“Iran’s relations with other countries did not need a guardian.”

In an interview with CNN that aired on Nov. 11, 2021: “The party that's supposed to return to JCPOA is the United States, not us. In the same way, Europe hasn't shown any commitment to JCPOA either, although they have remained part of it. We have shown our commitment to JCPOA. Therefore, returning to JCPOA has to do with Europe and the United States.”

Removal of sanctions “should be part of it [a deal]. But the issue of removing sanctions should come to some sort of conclusion before these sorts of negotiations.”

In an interview with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting on Nov. 10, 2021:

“We do not have nuclear talks, because the nuclear issue was fully agreed in 2015 in the form of an agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1.”

“The main issue we are facing now is the consequences of the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA, which are limited to the illegal sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

In a tweet on Nov. 3, 2021: In a phone call with @enriquemora_ , we agreed to start the negotiations aiming at removal of unlawful & inhumane sanctions on 29 November in Vienna.”


Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani

In a tweet on Nov. 3, 2021: “The U.S. President, lacking authority, is not ready to give guarantees. If the current status quo continues, the result of negotiations is clear.”

“The difference between today and the days of war: thanks to the Revolution, power, and capability of Iran's fully-fledged resistance is indigenous, constant and based on internal capacities.”


Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh

In a press conference on Nov. 2, 2021: “Mr. Blinken should not be forgetful. We are at this point because the U.S. arrogantly left the JCPOA by violating the obvious basics of international law. It left the JCPOA. That means that the U.S., in relation to the nuclear agreement, is a country that left illegally from the viewpoint of international law. From a political point of view, it did its best to scuttle this international treaty which had been verified by the U.N. Security Council resolution and, economically, it did its utmost to turn the dollar into a weapon against the deal.Therefore, I think that if the U.S. foreign policy apparatus suffers from Alzheimer's.”

“Some monotonous, or to put it more accurately, lackluster and hackneyed remarks like ‘there are other options’ and ‘all options are on the table.’ The U.S. knows what its options are, just as it tried its options in Afghanistan and realized [the results]. Instead of slipping into the language and logic of the hawks… the U.S. had better make an effort to create a new language and logic based on respecting the rights of nations.”

In a tweet on Nov. 1, 2021 that referenced a tweet by Senator Ted Cruz asserting that Biden has “ZERO constitutional authority” to commit to any new nuclear deal without congressional approval: “The world is acutely aware of what Mr. Cruz confesses: that regimes in Washington are rogue. Onus is on @POTUS to convince int'l community—incl all JCPOA participants—that his signature means something. For that, ‘objective guarantees’ needed. No one would accept anything less.”


The United States

President Joe Biden

In a press conference on Oct. 31, 2021: “Yesterday, together with Prime Minister Johnson and Merkel and Macron — President Macron, we came together to reiterate our shared belief that diplomacy — diplomacy is the best way to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, and we discussed how best to encourage Iran to resume serious, good-faith negotiations.”

E3 and US
The leaders of Britain, France, Germany, and the United States

In response to a journalist asking about the “costs” that the United States is “prepared to impose on Iran if it continues to carry out attacks against the United States, such as the recent drone strikes against U.S. forces in Syria,” Biden said: “Well, in a sense, they’re two different issues.  One is whether or not we get to the JCPOA — we rejoin that.  And — and that depends — that’s why I had the meetings with my colleagues here in — in Rome, who are part of the — the original group of six people — six nations that got together to say that we should negotiate a change, which I found that I think we’re continuing to suffer from the very bad judgments that President Trump made in pulling out of the JCPOA. And so, that’s one issue.  And that issue is going to depend on — whether and how that gets resolved is going to depend on their action and the willingness of our friends, who are part of the original agreement, to stick with us and make sure there’s a price to pay economically for them if they fail to come back.”

In a joint statement with the leaders of Britain, France and Germany on Oct. 30, 2021: “We are convinced that it is possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on return to full compliance and to ensure for the long term that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes.” 

“We call upon President Raisi to seize this opportunity and return to a good faith effort to conclude our negotiations as a matter of urgency. That is the only sure way to avoid a dangerous escalation, which is not in any country’s interest.”


Secretary of State Antony Blinken

In a CNN interview on Oct. 31, 2021: “President Biden got together here in Rome with his German, his French, and his British counterparts. We are absolutely in lockstep together on how we’re approaching the challenge of getting Iran back into compliance with the nuclear agreement, and that’s new because we had actually been at odds in recent years over that when the United States pulled out of the agreement. We’re now fully coordinated and working on this together.”

The United States and European partners “continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to deal with the challenges, the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, in particular – particularly, unfortunately, the steps it’s taken since we pulled out and in recent months to make that program increasingly dangerous. There’s still a window through which Iran can come back to the talks and we can come back to mutual compliance with the agreement, and that would be the best result. But it really depends on whether Iran is serious about doing that. All of our countries – working, by the way, with Russia and China – believe strongly that that would be the best path forward, but we do not yet know whether Iran is willing to come back and to engage in a meaningful way and get back into compliance. If it isn’t, if it won’t, then we are looking together at all of the options necessary to deal with this problem.”

In a CBS interview on Oct. 31, 2021: “The Iranians have now said that they’re coming back to talks toward the end of November. We’ll see if they actually do. That’s going to be important. We still believe diplomacy is the best path forward for putting the nuclear program back in the box it had been in under the agreement, the so-called JCPOA. But we were also looking at, as necessary, other options if Iran is not prepared to engage quickly in good faith to pick up where we left off in June when these talks were interrupted by the change in government in Iran.”

When pressed to elaborate on whether “other options” includes “military” options, Blinken replied: “Well, as we always say, every option is on the table. But here’s what’s important:  Iran, unfortunately, is moving forward aggressively with its program. The time it would take for it to produce enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon is getting shorter and shorter. The other thing that’s getting shorter is the runway we have where, if we do get back into compliance with the agreement and Iran gets back into compliance, we actually recapture all of the benefits of the agreement.  Iran is learning enough, doing enough, so that that’s starting to be a problem.”


State Department Spokesperson Ned Price

In a press briefing on Nov. 22, 2021: “We have been very clear all around that we are not willing and will not take unilateral steps as sweeteners to sweeten the pot just to get negotiations going.  A mutual return to compliance – it is in the interests of the United States; it is in the interests of the other members of the P5+1; it is also, as previous governments in Iran have concluded, in the interests of Tehran if we are able to get there.”

In a press briefing on Nov. 4, 2021: “We continue to believe that a mutual return to compliance is the most effective means by which to put Iran’s nuclear program back in the box that it was in for several years after the deal was implemented in 2016. So that is the first step.

“If we are able to achieve a mutual return to compliance, we will then use that JCPOA, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as a baseline to negotiate what we have – the – not only to lengthen and strengthen the provisions of the deal, but to put on the table and to discuss, in a productive and hopefully useful way, other issues of concern, issues that are of concern not only to the United States, but also of concern to our allies and partners in the region as well.

“The most pressing challenge we face with Iran, and I would say in the in the Middle East more broadly, is an Iranian nuclear program that does not have the constraints that are spelled out in the JCPOA.”

“We have tremendous leverage acting not only ourselves, but much more so when we act in concert with our allies and partners in the region. The forms of leverage, some of them are well known, some of them are included in the formula that is at – that is the predicate of the JCPOA. But again, right now, we are focused on that first task, and that is to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is once again constrained and that Iran is once again permanently and verifiably prevented from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

“The verification and monitoring elements of the JCPOA, they do not expire. We’re not reliant on any proclamations or fatwah, to use the term you did, that the Iranian Government has put forward. What we are relying on are the international instruments that have been negotiated and that, until recent years, had been in place that had permanently and verifiably constrained Iran’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon.”


Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley

In an interview with NPR on Nov. 23, 2021: “If they choose not to go back into the deal, then obviously we're going to have to see other efforts - diplomatic and otherwise - to try to address Iran's nuclear ambitions.”

“If they start getting too close, too close for comfort, then of course we will not be prepared to sit idly by.”

In a tweet about a call with his Chinese and Russian counterparts on Nov. 19, 2021: “Very constructive phone call with DFM Ryabkov and VFM Ma this morning. Our three countries are in strong agreement on the need for a return to full compliance with the JCPOA. We are working together to achieve it by aligning our approaches as we head to the 7th round of talks.”

In a tweet on Nov. 11: “Ready to engage with partners during my November 11-20 travel to the UAE, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. Focus will be on regional issues and negotiations over a mutual return to the JCPOA.”


National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan

At a press gaggle on Nov. 1, 2021: “Our approach has been to try to get back on a compliance-for-compliance basis into the JCPOA, which means focusing on that set of issues and then using that as a baseline, a foundation for dealing with the full range of concerns we have about Iran’s approach, including its missile programs, including regional activities. But the immediate priority is: restore the nuclear constraints. Because, having done that, we will be in a better position to tackle the rest of it.”

“We view this as, first — the first order of business is get back into the JCPOA on a compliance-for-compliance basis. But the very design of the JCPOA always conceived of us continuing to work hard to deal with our deep concerns about Iran’s other activities and the other elements of the threat that Iran poses. And that’s what we would intend to do on a going-forward basis.”

E3 (Britain, France and Germany) Joint Statement

In a statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors on Nov. 24, 2021: “We are deeply concerned that, for more than two years, Iran has continued its systematic nuclear escalation, thereby permanently and irreversibly upgrading its nuclear capabilities and exposing the international community to significant risk.” 

“Iran’s R&D on, and extensive use of, advanced centrifuges have permanently improved its enrichment capabilities. This means that Iran’s continued escalations are irreversibly reducing the counter-proliferation value of the JCPoA.”

“We as E3 will return to Vienna for negotiations in good faith, to resume work based on where we left off discussions in June. We are convinced that it is possible to reach and implement an understanding on the measures providing for Iran return to full compliance with its JCPoA commitments and the United States return to the deal. We are convinced it is in the best interest of all parties to do so swiftly. Iran should take the opportunity to do this deal now. Restoring full implementation of the JCPoA is in the collective security interests of all, including of Iran.”



Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office

In a statement released on Nov. 11, 2021: The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, Bagheri Kani visited the FCDO today (11 November) to meet senior government officials and Minister Cleverly.

FCDO representatives reiterated that Iran should take the opportunity to conclude the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) deal on the table now.



Readout of a call between Foreign Minsiter Jean-Yves Le Drian and Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian on Nov. 9, 2021: In line with the 29 October communiqué by the heads of State and government of the E3 and the United States, he emphasized the importance and urgency of resuming the negotiations interrupted by Iran on 20 June 2021, on the basis negotiated until that date, with the aim of a swift return to the JCPOA.

The Minister also signalled the importance of Iran’s full cooperation with the IAEA, in the run-up to the Agency’s next Board of Governors’ meeting.



Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

In comments on Nov.  11: “The utmost must be done so that the negotiations ensure the restoration of what’s known as the ‘factory settings’ of the JCPOA ... Political will is now required. From the U.S. side, it is important to prove and demonstrate in practice that the sanctions policy which has been carried out over the recent years is being reviewed and the Iranian side is given the opportunity to reap those economic advantages that are included in the package of agreements that lies at the heart of the JCPOA.”

Negotiations must resume “on the basis of the progress achieved by June 20.”

In comments on the sidelines of the G20 Summit: “If the sides are intensifying contacts, they apparently want to come to resuming the deal. It may be resumed solely in the form it was approved by the UN Security Council in 2015.”

“Any additions and any exemptions are unacceptable for the Iranian side. And we fully support this approach.”


Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, Permanent Representative to International Organizations

In a tweet on Nov. 15, 2021: “In the run up to the forthcoming resumption of the #ViennaTalks on #JCPOA it’s very important to exclude steps or rhetoric which can complicate the search for normalisation of the situation around the nuclear programme of #Iran, as well as sanction lifting.”

In a tweet on Nov. 13, 2021: “It is natural that for Iran sanctions lifting comes first.”

In a tweet on Nov. 9, 2021: “In 20 days the #ViennaTalks on restoration/ revival/ reanimation of #JCPOA will resume. It will be a remarkable event after a long (almost 5,5 months) break. It must be a successful exercise. There is no acceptable alternative.”

In a tweet on Nov. 4, 2021: “The art of diplomacy implies the ability to establish wise hierarchy of priorities at a given period of time. Attempts to settle all the problems at once fail as a rule. Moreover they can be extremely counterproductive.”

In a tweet on Nov. 4, 2021: “The #IAEA DG [Rafael Grossi] also said, if I understood him correctly, that reduced ability of the Agency to conduct verification activities in #Iran can be seen as “collateral damage” caused by bigger political problems around the nuclear deal. It is hard to argue.

In a tweet on Nov. 4, 2021: “Difficult to understand the logic of #JCPOA opponents. Can they offer anything better than the nuclear deal which removes proliferation risks through intrusive verification by #IAEA? No,they can’t except for reproduction of failed maximum  pressure policy and Pompeo’s 12 points.”

In a tweet on Nov. 4, 2021: “All participants in the #ViennaTalks want them to be result-oriented. Nobody wants to waist time on fruitless discussions. This businesslike approach shared by all allows to assess the prospects of the forthcoming talks with cautious optimism.”

In a tweet on Nov. 3, 2021: “BREAKING NEWS! The #ViennaTalks on restoration of #JCPOA will resume on November 29. This long-awaited collective decision opens the way to #US #sanctions lifting and return of #Iran to full implementation of nuclear provisions of 2015 deal.”

In written comments to Newsweek, published Nov. 3, 2021: “In Russia we have a saying which can be translated into English as: the hope is the last to die.”

“I believe it is too early to be pessimistic.”



Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Readout of Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu’s comments in a call with his U.S. and Russian counterparts on Nov. 19, 2021: “All parties adopt a flexible and pragmatic attitude, respect each other's interests, create a sound atmosphere, and work for the JCPOA to get back on track at an early date.”

Readout of Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s comments in a call with his Iranian counterpart on Nov. 6, 2021: “China and Iran are comprehensive strategic partners. No matter how the international situation changes, China always firmly develops its friendly relations with Iran, and promotes China-Iran practical cooperation for the benefit of the two countries and two peoples. China stands ready to work with Iran to continue to oppose unilateralism and bullying, safeguard the principle of non-interference in internal affairs, and uphold the common interests of developing countries. China is also willing to strengthen anti-pandemic cooperation with Iran until the final victory is achieved. China hopes that Iran will support the Global Development Initiative.”

“China welcomes Iran's decision to return to negotiations on resumption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at the end of this month, which reflects Iran's positive gesture of commitment to the resumption of compliance. In view of the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA, the United States should first take action to make corrections. Iran can resume compliance with its nuclear-related commitments on this basis. All parties should strengthen coordination and jointly move forward the negotiations in the right direction. China supports Iran in strengthening cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which will create a sound atmosphere for resuming negotiations.”


Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin

Remarks to the press on Oct. 28. 2021: “It is in the common interests of the international community to bring the JCPOA back on track as soon as possible and promote regional peace and stability. China welcomes Iran's announcement of its return to the Vienna negotiations before the end of November, appreciates Iran's invitation for the IAEA chief's visit, and supports both sides in resolving differences through dialogue.

“Important progress has been made in the previous six rounds of negotiations on the resumption of compliance held in the first half of this year. All parties should make renewed efforts to push for breakthroughs in the negotiations based on the principle of objectivity and justice. The US should thoroughly correct its wrong policy of ‘maximum pressure’ on Iran, and Iran should resume full compliance on this basis. Other parties should also create a favorable atmosphere for achieving the above goals.

“China will stay in close communication with relevant parties, take a constructive part in negotiations, firmly uphold the JCPOA and push for the political and diplomatic settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue. At the same time, we will resolutely safeguard our legitimate rights and interests.”

Some of the information in this article was originally published on November 22, 2021.