A seventh round of negotiations to rehabilitate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal floundered this week after the regime renounced the tentative agreements struck over the previous six rounds of meetings.

“Iran, right now, does not seem to be serious about doing what's necessary to return to compliance, which is why we ended this round of talks,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday during the Reuters NEXT Virtual Global Conference. “We will see if Iran has any interest in engaging seriously, but the window is very, very tight.”

U.S. and Iranian officials descended on Vienna this week for the first round of “indirect talks” — mediated by Western European allies, China, and Russia — since the inauguration of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi this summer. Iranian officials came equipped with two documents that set out new terms of the talks, prompting Western officials, including the European powers that worked to preserve the deal following the U.S. withdrawal in 2018, to abort the meeting.

“Tehran is walking back almost all of the difficult compromises crafted after many months of hard work,” senior European diplomats said Friday. “Our governments remain fully committed to a diplomatic way forward. But time is running out.”


The 2015 nuclear deal has been on life support since 2018, when then-President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact and renewed U.S. sanctions, arguing the deal didn’t place adequate restraints on Iran’s nuclear program and gave Tehran the financial resources for a wave of aggression in several neighboring states. That decision dismayed proponents of the deal, who credited the agreement with defusing a nuclear crisis that has been sparked again as Iran continues to expand its nuclear program in an apparent effort to pressure Blinken’s team to make economic concessions.

“The issue of the negotiations now is not related to Iran. It is related to the United States,” Iranian envoy Ali Bagheri Kani told Middle East Eye on Friday. “Therefore, now the ball is in the court of the Americans. The Americans must remove the sanctions.”

That demand applies to the nuclear sanctions that were waived and restored in context of the nuclear deal and any new sanctions imposed by the United States related to other Iranian actions, such as Tehran’s support for terrorism.

“The Iranians have been told their proposals are not serious and they are to go back to Tehran and get further instructions,” a Western European diplomat told an Israeli media outlet.

In the meantime, U.S. and European officials are broadening their own diplomatic focus to include Israel and Gulf Arab states alarmed by Iran’s regional clout.

"I think it's very difficult to find an agreement if the Gulf countries, Israel, all those whose security is directly affected, don't take part,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters Friday while traveling in the United Arab Emirates.

Blinken made a similar statement, declaring U.S. officials wouldn’t allow Iran to manipulate the process.

“What we will not allow to happen is for Iran to try to drag out this process while continuing to move forward inexorably in building up its program,” Blinken said. “So, we've said all along that if the path to a return to compliance with the agreement turns out to be a dead end, we will pursue other options.”


Raisi’s team projected confidence about their position.

“I truly believe that this is a good opportunity for someone who is very familiar with various angles of the deal to defend the right and restore the right of the Iranian nation,” Bagheri Kani said.