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Iran spokesman says powerful body rejects nuclear deal with US

The statement by the spokesman for the moderate government confirmed a push by hard-liners in Tehran to make it impossible for a deal between the outgoing Rouhani government and the US administration to get final approval.
Ali Rabiei

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said July 20 that a high-ranking committee has decided that an Iran-US agreement on the revival of the multilateral Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has to be rejected.

Rabiei said the decision was made despite an "agreement in principle" that has already been reached between Iran and American negotiators, who have been indirectly discussing their return to the JCPOA during six rounds of talks in Vienna. The other JCPOA parties present in the negotiations have been China, Russia, the UK, France and Germany.

The spokesman said the committee within Iran's Supreme National Security Council dismissed the new deal on the grounds of "noncompliance" with a contentious parliamentary bill.

The Iranian parliament, which is controlled by hard-liners opposing the Rouhani government, passed the bill in December. Despite expressing strong criticism against the bill, the Rouhani government ultimately swallowed the bitter pill and had to implement it. The legislation stipulated a jump in Iran's nuclear enrichment by 20% and later 60%, among other measures that also drew serious concern from the Western parties to the JCPOA. The same bill requires the government to maintain those breaches until the United States verifiably removes all sanctions against Tehran.

Rabiei did not specify the names of the committee members. But the Supreme National Security Council is a powerful body in charge of many key foreign policy decisions. The majority of the members are either directly or indirectly appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Any measure adopted by the Supreme National Security Council is not binding until it receives a final seal of approval from Khamenei.

The body has now decided that the talks will be delegated to the incoming administration of President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, who is taking over in about two weeks. "As far as the current administration is concerned, the bulk of the negotiations on the sanctions removal have been carried out," Rabiei said.

During the course of the negotiations in Vienna, the Rouhani government repeatedly declared that it was on the threshold of finalizing a deal on the lifting of US sanctions. Iranian diplomats had also said their return to the capital was for the last consultations on a final decision.

Rabiei's statement came weeks after that return and served as official confirmation that hopes were now gone for a Rouhani government deal with Washington. It also laid bare the determination on the part of hard-liners to  prevent the Rouhani government from gaining an achievement it had been strongly banking on before its departure.

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