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U.S. Wants to Restart Nuclear Talks With Iran, but Hasn’t Budged on Demands

So far, Iranian officials have indicated they are planning to abide by the requirements of the 2015 deal. But there is clearly a debate underway in Iran — argued by some members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and people who were deeply invested in the nuclear program — that the United States never intended to allow Tehran to rejoin the Western economies. They have advised Iran’s leaders to simply bar international inspectors and resume uranium enrichment.

“There are now only two countries that matter for Iran,” Vali Nasr, a Middle East expert and the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. “They are Russia and China, and they haven’t showed their hand” on whether they would join Iran in seeking to frustrate Mr. Trump’s effort to isolate the country.

Russia has been Iran’s partner in the war in Syria. China, meanwhile, may see an opportunity to strike energy deals with the Iran despite the American sanctions, betting that the United States could not afford to cut off Chinese suppliers.

U.S. Wants to Restart Nuclear Talks With Iran, but Hasn’t Budged on Demands
U.S. Wants to Restart Nuclear Talks With Iran, but Hasn’t Budged on Demands

The Trump administration, said Mr. Nasr, who was born in Tehran and immigrated to the United States after the 1979 revolution, “may be pursuing a regime-change strategy against Iran.”

“But they will discover that regime change is not an exact science,” he said.

Mr. Pompeo is unlikely to talk about leadership change in Iran during his speech on Monday, officials said. But he will discuss a broad containment policy.

During the Obama administration, officials gave similar speeches before striking the 2015 deal. But those were different in nature because the major European states were fully participating in sanctions, determining they were the best way to force Iran to negotiate.

Mr. Trump’s decision to scrap the results of that negotiation, however, may have so angered European officials that they will simply refuse to negotiate a new deal — unless they fear the economic consequences will be overwhelming.

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