After weeks of failed starts and back-channel exchanges, Iran and the United States will, next week in Vienna, begin exchanging ideas about how to restore the 2015 nuclear deal. Initially, though, there will be no direct talks between the two countries, officials in Europe and the United States said on Friday. Restoring the nuclear agreement would be a major step, nearly three years after President Donald J. Trump scrapped it, and perhaps begin a thaw in the frozen hostility between the two countries.
But it is far from clear, officials said, that the complex diplomatic choreography now under discussion — in which American sanctions would be lifted as Iran cuts back on its production of nuclear fuel and allows international inspectors full access to its facilities — could happen before the Iranian presidential election in June. But even an agreement in principle before the election, if approved by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, could lock in the new Iranian government, American and European officials say.
The development came six weeks after the United States initially offered to join European nations in what would be the first substantial diplomacy with Tehran in more than four years. The delay seemed to reflect infighting in Iran between elements of the government that are desperate to end the crushing sanctions and hard-liners in the military and among the clerics who have demanded reparations for the damage done by Mr. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Obama-era accord.
Equally important in the view of Biden administration officials, a new deal would have to be linked to restraints on Iran’s missile abilities and its support for terrorist groups, as well as on its aid to the Syrian government.