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US détente with Iran combines diplomacy, deterrence

Also: Iran seeks to do just enough to comply with IAEA safeguards, while avoiding snapback sanctions over missiles and drones.
A staff removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and representatives of Unites States, Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during the Iran nuclear talks at the Vienna International Center in Vienna on July 14, 2015.

“I can say they are close” 

The Biden administration, discarding for now any hopes of a revised Iran nuclear deal, is instead pursuing an understanding with Iran that goes something like this, according to press reports: 

  • Iran would pause its enriched uranium at 60%, and avoid approaching 90%, the level needed for a weapon; refrain from installing more advanced centrifuges and expanding its uranium stockpiles; and maintain cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including resolution of outstanding safeguards issues (more on this below). 
  • The United States has said that "all options are on the table" if Iran crosses the enrichment red line, or is caught in a sneak-out or breakout run at a weapon. Israeli threats of force complement the US warnings, which are backed by a substantial deterrent posture. 
  • The United States would facilitate the release of frozen Iranian funds and hold off on further punitive sanctions or censure by the UN Security Council and the IAEA, assuming Iranian compliance. Washington this week approved the release of $2.7 billion for Iraq to pay Iran for electricity and gas. The State Department described this as a routine sanctions waiver, but timing is everything. Talks are also reportedly progressing for South Korea to pay $7 billion owed Iran, also tied up because of US sanctions.   
  • Iran would release US citizens Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz, all unjustly detained in Iran. “I can say they are close,” Oman Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Albusaidi told Elizabeth Hagedorn about a potential US-Iran prisoner agreement. “This is probably a question of technicalities. … They need to have a framework [and] a timeframe of how this [the release of frozen funds] should be orchestrated.”  

Diplomacy, deterrence and Israel 

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