salehiisfanahi7_ EU Vienna DelegationHandoutAnadolu Agency via Getty Images_iran vienna EU Vienna DelegationHandoutAnadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iran's Vienna Gambit

The risk that the United Nations will reimpose the economic sanctions on Iran that were ended by the 2015 nuclear deal hangs over the presidency of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi like a sword of Damocles. This threat may be Raisi’s strongest incentive to reach a compromise in the ongoing nuclear talks.

BLACKSBURG, VIRGINIA – In a qualifying match last November for the 2022 soccer World Cup, Iran trailed Lebanon 0-1 at the end of the scheduled 90 minutes. On social media, skeptical Iranians were getting ready to blame their team’s imminent defeat on Iran’s hardline leaders, who supposedly wanted to lose the match in order to please Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. But, in the four minutes of stoppage time, Iran scored two goals to secure victory.

Today, the clock is ticking for Iran’s leaders in the high-stakes negotiations in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. According to their American counterparts, at least, they are not showing the requisite urgency.

But it was former US President Donald Trump who unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (as the 2015 deal is formally known) and reimposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran. Despite the crushing blow, Iran remained in the agreement for another 14 months before increasing its nuclear enrichment level beyond the limits set by the JCPOA.