‘Misinformation Disguised as Reporting’: Iran Dismisses Reuters Story on Alleged JCPOA Revival Terms
Earlier on Thursday, Reuters ran a report claiming to detail the terms upon which the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would be revived. However, Iran’s Foreign Ministry quickly spoke up and dismissed the story as less-than-factual.
“Misinformation disguised as reporting is dangerous,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted.
“The final deal to let the US return to the JCPOA will be far from the unsourced spin making the rounds. It won't be a bilateral agreement either,” he said. “Expect more spin as we approach [the] final days.”
According to Reuters, which cited three diplomats familiar with the negotiations, the draft text of the agreement says that Iran must make the first step in returning to the nuclear deal by reducing its uranium enrichment to just 5% uranium-235. In exchange, about $7 billion in Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks by US sanctions would be freed.
The deal would also provide for the release of Western prisoners allegedly held in Iran.
After those items are confirmed, the US will lift its sanctions on a day termed “Re-Implementation Day.” However, according to the diplomats, the time frame in which these steps are expected to unfold remains the subject of contention in the talks in Vienna.
Eventually, Iran is expected to return to the uranium-235 purity cap of 3.67% set by the JCPOA when it was first agreed to in late 2015.
The US unilaterally left the deal in 2018, claiming without evidence that Iran was violating the deal and secretly pursuing a nuclear weapon. The US departure was accompanied by “maximum pressure” sanctions that caused major damage to the Iranian economy and exacerbated the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the country in early 2020.
After the deal’s European parties, which include Germany, France, the UK, and the European Union, failed to challenge the US sanctions despite being unconvinced by US claims Iran had violated the deal, Tehran began reducing its commitments to the deal. It gradually began increasing the purity of uranium-235 it produced to nearly 60%, and has stored far more than is allowed by the JCPOA at any purity. However, it denies it is in pursuit of a nuclear weapon, and its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has declared the use of any weapons of mass destruction to be a violation of Islam.
Khamenei reiterated that point on Thursday, saying in a televised speech that such claims were “nonsense” and that Iran’s nuclear program was the true target of its enemies, because “they do not want Iran to achieve this great and significant progress.”
In order to make a bomb out of only uranium-235, Iran would need to reach a purity of more than 90%, according to US nuclear scientists.
Talks on reviving the deal began early last year after Joe Biden replaced Donald Trump as the US President, and talks are presently in their eighth round in Vienna. Earlier this month, the Biden administration issued a sanctions waiver on international cooperation with Iran’s civil nuclear program, which services several nuclear power plants in the country, which observers took as a goodwill sign that a deal on reviving the JCPOA was close.
On Wednesday, Ali Bagheri, Iran’s top negotiator, said on Twitter that “we are closer than ever to an agreement/”
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, though,” he cautioned. “Our negotiating partners need to be realistic, avoid intransigence and heed lessons of [the] past 4yrs. Time for their serious decisions.”