Why Iran and the United States will continue to negotiate over its nuclear program

Written by Staff Writer, CNN Tehran, Iran

For years, Iran has insisted that its nuclear program had exclusively peaceful aims. But faced with renewed threats of U.S. military action and fresh international sanctions, Tehran opted to hold talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“I hope a nuclear deal will be reached … before the end of the year,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Friday in a joint statement with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas.

The deal, which falls short of Iran’s demands, will enable the IAEA to resume full monitoring of Tehran’s nuclear program, and pave the way for access to a suspected nuclear weapons site.

The deal, however, failed to satisfy the Trump administration.

“We will continue to raise concerns regarding Iran’s destructive activities in the Middle East and elsewhere,” said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement released following Friday’s announcement.

“It is vital that Iran never obtain a nuclear weapon. After many years of questions, it is imperative that we finally determine what happened at this site, including whether nuclear weapons development was ever a part of Iran’s program.”

After more than a decade of talks, which have lasted under five U.N. Security Council resolutions, the Iranian government released its entire nuclear history to the IAEA — a document known as the Iran Sanctions Implementation Plan (ISIP).

The document outlines Iran’s nuclear program and its safeguards agreements, with some items redacted.

It will allow access to the Parchin military base, and all information about all previous nuclear facilities and uranium enrichment facilities in Iran, known as the Kish Islands, and all sites related to military nuclear activities.

The new nuclear deal’s efficacy was placed in question by the US administration, and multiple indications suggested that it would need to be improved upon — but not fatally altered — for Washington to sign off on it.

On March 14, Vice President Mike Pence said the administration would not accept the agreement negotiated with former President Barack Obama.

“The Iran deal is an abdication of America’s core interests and a major disappointment,” Pence said in a speech at the Munich Security Conference, “and as President Trump has said, the deal is ‘architected to fail.’”

Western governments, including the US, began tightening sanctions on Iran following the 2015 signing of the agreement, which led to record oil prices and billions of dollars in profit, leaving Iran with a shrinking economy.

Since Trump became president, the administration has put pressure on European governments, which hold sanctions relief for Iran, by reimposing sanctions that were lifted under the Obama-era deal.

The ISIP was aimed at assuaging those concerns.

“It makes our effort to preserve the deal possible by providing added transparency to the (international) community, easing international concerns about the program and by promoting a sustained dialogue between Iran and the international community about its nuclear program,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement following Friday’s agreement.

After a preliminary deal in November, 2016, the nuclear negotiations fell apart in 2016, but both sides continued efforts to reach a final agreement.

The Trump administration had a chance to sign off on the agreement before President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, but the officials negotiated with European nations — which agreed to remove economic sanctions but retain the right to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities — did not hold a signing ceremony at the time.

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