Nuclear Talks in Doha
As a part of the nuclear negotiations that started in Vienna on April 6, 2021, the parties last met in Vienna on March 11, 2022. During the pause in the negotiations for nearly four months, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and his deputy Enrique Mora, as the coordinator of the JCPOA, continued to be in contact with all the JCPOA participants and the USA. As a matter of fact, Borrell paid a visit to Tehran on June 25 at the invitation of Iran's Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian. Commenting on his visit to Tehran on his official Twitter account, Josep Borrell said, "My visit to Tehran has only one main purpose: to give new momentum to the negotiations and to put the nuclear deal on track." After the talks, it was announced that the disputed parties (the USA and Iran) would come together for indirect talks in Doha. Mohammad Marandi, an advisor to Iran's nuclear negotiation team, told ISNA news agency that "Iran chose Qatar to host the talks because of Doha's friendly ties with Tehran." The talks between the USA and Iran in Doha lasted for two days (28-29 June). Even though a date has not been set for the continuation of the negotiations, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani stated that they are trying to determine the date and place of the next session of the negotiations in contact with Mora. Contrary to the Iranian media, the Western media reported that there is no such plan yet.
Doha Talks Remained Inconclusive
The negotiations, which lasted for two days in Doha, were inconclusive. The parties blame each other for the failure in question. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a US official said, “The prospects for a deal after Doha are worse than they were before Doha and they will be getting worse by the day. You could describe Doha at best as treading water. Iran has made vague and non-JCPOA-related demands, it has been requested that the resolved issues be reopened. They need to know that what they want is beyond the scope of the JCPOA, that some issues have been discussed and resolved at length in Vienna and cannot be renegotiated. At this point, we are not yet sure if Iran knows what they want." Another US official made the following statements: “Negotiations to revive the JCPOA are not over, but at this point, it doesn't look very hopeful. We didn't have to come to Doha to hear this list of complaints and demands unrelated to the JCPOA." Two Western diplomats claimed that Tehran had requested during the Doha talks to end the investigation concerning the undeclared nuclear material found in Iran over the past three years.
Iran, however, described the Doha talks as positive and accused the USA of failing to guarantee that a new US administration would not abandon the deal again, as Trump did. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanani said that during the Doha talks, Iran offered "practical suggestions" to solve the remaining problems and that Tehran "will be in contact with the EU in the next phase of the negotiations". Mohammad Eslami, Chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, stated that “In the last talks, the issue of PMD [possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear activities], whose case was closed, came to the fore once again”. Another source informing Bloomberg about the talks asserted that the Doha talks between Iran and the USA focused on oil sanctions, Iran's access to funds blocked in South Korea, airline sanctions, and the lifting of prohibitions on the IRGC's commercial operations.
The four-month pause in the negotiations and the frequently changing statements are reflections of the parties' lack of political will to return to the Nuclear Deal. This lack of will indicates that both the USA and Iran are skeptical of the benefits they will gain from the JCPOA. For the US side, JCPOA is still seen as the only solution to limit Iran's nuclear activities, albeit temporarily. However, the passage of time brings Iran closer to the nuclear threshold and undermines the benefits of the JCPOA. On the other hand, the JCPOA can animate the Iranian economy at a time when internal discontent is increasing due to economic troubles in Iran. Also, when Israel is expanding its ties with Arab states, JCPOA can create trade opportunities for Iran with its neighbors. However, while the economic benefits provided by the JCPOA may be short-term, it is uncertain if these benefits will be significant and if the recovery will occur quickly.
Despite all this, it is seen that the parties still do not completely abandon the path of diplomacy since the failure of the negotiations points to a scenario where uncertainties and tensions increase for both sides. Failure to reach an agreement primarily carries the risk of escalation of the Iran-Israel tension. Such tension would increase instability in the region. Such a scenario is not attractive either for Iran or the USA. Being aware of this fact, both sides emphasize that the doors to diplomacy are not completely closed yet.