Richard Nephew stepped down as deputy special envoy for Iran and left the U.S. team negotiating Iran’s return to the 2015 nuclear deal because he believed the there was no future for the agreement, according to a new report.

Nephew’s departure was confirmed this week by a State Department official who declined to comment on the reason for the move.

But it comes at a critical phase in negotiations, as Iran signals it is preparing to begin direct talks with American negotiators.

Initial reports suggested that Nephew, known as the architect of the Iran sanctions regime, believed the Biden administration’s strategy was too soft as negotiators sought to bring Tehran back to the nuclear accord jettisoned under President Trump.

Now sources have told Laura Rozen, who writes the Diplomatic newsletter, that Nephew came to believe that instead of returning to the 2015 deal – known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the U.S. should pivot to a different agreement.

That put him at odds with Biden administration policy of seeking to restore the 2015 agreement.

‘There was no personal difference,’ a senior State Department official told her.

‘If there was any difference, it was with U.S. government policy. So the issue was not what… anyone on the team believes.’

She also named one of two other officials who had left the team – Ariane Tabatabai, a senior adviser in the State Department arms control bureau.

Under the terms of the 2015 J.C.P.O.A, sanctions were lifted in return for limits on Iran’s nuclear program.

However, American conservatives frequently expressed their opposition to the deal. They said Iran frequently breached the spirit of the agreement, sowing unrest in the Middle East and continuing to develop rocket technology.

They also expressed concerns about sunset clauses, which meant some nuclear restrictions expired after eight, 10 and 15 years.

It meant Iran would eventually be able to build up its uranium enrichment capability and reduce the time needed to build nuclear weapons.

As a result, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal, reimposing sanctions and freeing Iran to begin enhancing uranium production.

Talks to reinstate the deal began in Vienna last year.

However, Iran has refused to negotiate directly with the U.S. Instead European diplomats are shutting between rooms, passing messages.

Eight rounds of indirect talks have so far been conducted.

But Iranian officials have begun to signal they might be ready for a new phase.

The country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, said this month that negotiating with the enemy was not the same as surrendering.

And Tehran’s foreign minister floated the idea of direct talks on Monday.

‘Reports saying that Iran and the US are directly negotiating with one another are untrue,’ Hossein Amirabdollahian said during a news conference in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

‘However, if we get to a stage where reaching a good deal with strong guarantees necessitates direct talks with the US, we will consider it.’

This week British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned that the current negotiations were not progressing quickly enough.

‘This negotiation is urgent and progress has not been fast enough,’ she told British lawmakers.

‘We continue to work in close partnership with our allies but the negotiations are reaching a dangerous impasse.’

Source » dailymail