In order to sell the nuclear deal to domestic constituencies and the world, Iran and the P5+1 countries overpromised the benefits of the deal. But, despite public denials by those officials that the nuclear deal would lead to further negotiations over significant geopolitical issues, it did not stop a myriad of analysts and deal skeptics from speculating about what would happen after the nuclear deal.
Ahead of the Joint Commission for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna on Dec. 13, Frederica Mogherini, the European Union foreign policy chief who led the talks between Iran and the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, spoke at the European Parliament and rekindled the debate in Iranian media on whether or not the nuclear deal was intended to open the door for other talks. In her comments, Mogherini said the preamble of the nuclear deal says the nuclear agreement "could pave the road toward another interaction or a more constructive engagement in the region and create the framework for that.”
Mogherini added, “Maybe I am revealing a secret, but that sentence was inserted at Iran’s request.” She said Iranian negotiators had intended to use the agreement as a mandate to engage with the rest of the world and sideline domestic critics opposed to more engagement.
The Iranian leadership had always been concerned that the nuclear agreement, which saw Iran reduce its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, would lead to other demands by Western countries, particularly over Iran’s missile program. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had repeatedly stressed in public speeches that the negotiators were only tasked with negotiating on the nuclear issue and not other issues.
Mogherini’s comments understandably caused a stir at the Joint Commission meeting, a body tasked with monitoring the commitments of the nuclear deal. Seyyed Abbas Araghchi, the Iranian deputy foreign minister who was one of the key players involved in the nuclear talks, said on the sidelines of the Joint Commission meeting that Mogherini’s comments were simply “rhetoric.” Other Iranian outlets translated the comment less harshly as “verbosities.”
Aragchi said, “In the nuclear deal there is one sentence — and it is that the complete implementation of the nuclear deal can ensure peace and security in the region and a global partnership.” He continued, “First of the all, the complete implementation has not taken place yet. ... After all of the sanctions have been removed and the two sides have been committed to their pacts for the entire 10 years and shown that the nuclear deal was a successful agreement, then you can claim that the nuclear deal created a peaceful global partnership.” He said that the text of the nuclear deal was clear and that the deal itself resolved one problem in the chaotic Middle East.
Conservative Iranian media outlets, normally quick to attack the nuclear negotiation team, were quick to criticize Mogherini instead. The hard-line Kayhan newspaper covered Mogherini’s comments with an article headlined “America and Europe’s trick to bring regional issues into the nuclear deal.” Playing on Mogherini’s comments that she was “revealing” a secret, Vatan-e Emrooz headlined their article, “Mogherini revealed Europe,” suggesting that the comments instead revealed Europe's intentions.