EU-brokered Iran nuclear deal talks reopen in Vienna on Monday without waiting for swift progress and a warning from Washington envoy Robert Malley that the US will not stand by crusaders if Iran delays negotiations while it ramps up its nuclear program.

The head of the US Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, put teeth in this warning when he told Time magazine that his command “has a variety of plans that we could execute, if we command it.”

The 2015 deal with the United States and other world powers saw Iran pledge to curtail its nuclear activities in exchange for easing Western sanctions.

Mr Malley said the United States was ready to return to the deal and lift any sanctions that were inconsistent with it. Iran has demanded an end to the 1,500 sanctions imposed after the Trump administration abandoned the deal in 2018.

Despite the progress made in the previous six rounds, a hiatus was imposed ahead of the Iranian presidential election in June, won by the skeptic Ebrahim Raisi to the extreme. He took the time to review the files and appoint new negotiators to succeed the team that worked under pro-deal president Hassan Rouhani. The seventh round could reveal Raisi’s intentions.

Iran will, once again, negotiate directly with the other parties to the 2015 agreement – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – and indirectly with the United States, based in another hotel, with EU mediator Enrique Mora going back and forth between the parties.

“Participants will continue discussions on the prospect of a possible return of the United States to the [deal] and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement by all parties, ”said the EU’s European External Action Service.

Tehran insists the United States must re-enter the deal and ensure that it does not withdraw again, as well as end the sanctions. In return, Iran would stop enriching uranium above 3.7% purity, export stocks over 300 kg, withdraw advanced enrichment centrifuges, and resume full cooperation with the controllers of the United States. ‘International Atomic Energy Agency, which are supposed to ensure Iran’s compliance.

Tehran has broken the agreement since 2019 on the assumption that Iran could “stop fulfilling its commitments [if there was] significant non-performance ”by other signatories. Following the US abandonment, Europe has not lifted the sanctions due to secondary US sanctions threats against any government, company or individual trading and investing in Iran.

Iran’s economy has contracted, the value of its currency has fallen, unemployment has risen, and Covid-19 infections have skyrocketed due to the shortage of tests, vaccines and drugs.

Regional interventions

Overturned by the American and European management of the agreement, Russia and China have agreed to support Iran in this round. There were rumors of an “interim agreement”, without details.

US President Joe Biden was due to reverse the deal soon after taking office, but insisted the deal should be expanded to cover Iran’s regional interventions and its ballistic missile program. These requests were rejected by both Rouhani and Raisi.

Opponents of the deal in Congress and in Israel have increased pressure on Mr. Biden to extend or suppress it.

Dual US-Iranian nationality and analyst Negar Mortazavi told al-Jazeera the Biden administration “completely messed up [the] golden opportunity ”to join quickly, thus jeopardizing the agreement.

Ahead of the talks, the Elders Group, made up of world figures including former President Mary Robinson, called on all parties to “show courageous leadership and a willingness to compromise.”

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