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U.S. and Iran Agree to Indirect Talks on Returning to Nuclear Deal

He said those steps have given Iran leverage in negotiations, adding, “You can’t bargain until you have power.”

Mr. Salehi, too, was a key figure in the 2015 negotiations, as was Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who said in a Clubhouse meeting on Wednesday that “we are willing to choreograph moves” with the United States.

“We are not opposed to temporary steps,” he added, “but our position is a permanent approach is more productive.”

But if history is any guide, even getting to the temporary steps will be difficult.

Republicans in Congress, who were overwhelmingly against the 2015 deal — along with some prominent Democrats — are already charging that the Biden administration is lifting pressure on Tehran too soon. Mr. Biden must be careful not to give Republicans in the Senate any sense that he is giving in to Iranian demands.

And in Iran, there is little trust in the United States after Mr. Trump reneged on his predecessor’s deal. Mr. Biden’s successor, they note, could do just what Mr. Trump did.

“It is not surprising that Iran is divided internally,” said R. Nicholas Burns, who, as a senior State Department official under President George W. Bush, attempted the first nuclear negotiations with Iran. “Back in 2005-2008,” he said, when allies “first organized to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, the Iranians were similarly stymied by domestic arguments over how and when to negotiate.”

But a senior Biden administration official said that in this case, the United States would not seek to retain some nuclear-related sanctions for leverage, arguing that the “maximum pressure” campaign waged against Iran by the Trump administration had failed.


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