Iran, Russia, and China aligned in talks over a revamped nuclear deal to force the United States and Western countries to give up significant concessions that resulted in Tehran getting "much more than it could expect," according to Russia’s lead negotiator.
"I am absolutely sincere in this regard. Iran got much more than it could expect," Mikhail Ulyanov said in a recent interview about the negotiations. "Much more. … Realistically speaking, Iran got more than frankly I expected, others expected. This is a matter of fact."
Ulyanov’s comments come as the negotiations in Vienna enter their final stage, with an announcement of a new deal expected in the coming days. Iran is certain to receive billions of dollars in cash windfalls in exchange for minimal restrictions on its nuclear program.
Details of the agreement have been closely guarded for more than a year, with Republican foreign policy leaders in Congress saying they have been completely cut out of the negotiations. The Biden administration has avoided fully briefing Congress on the deal and appears poised to violate a 2015 law mandating that any accord with Iran first be approved by Congress. Republican leaders also have objected to Russia’s position in the talks. Moscow has served as the United States’ key interlocutor with Iran even as it faces international scorn for the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
With Russia and China’s assistance, Iran was able to get more than it ever expected out of the talks, according to Ulyanov.
"Iranian clerics are fighting for Iranian nuclear national interests like lions," the Russian diplomat said. "Indeed, I’m very serious. They fight for every comma, every word, and, as a rule, quite successfully. I must recognize that."
The Russia-Iran-China alliance proved to be essential in forcing the United States and Western nations to give into Tehran’s demands.
"Our Chinese friends were also very efficient and useful as co-negotiators," Ulyanov said. "We could rely on each other on many, many points. And on many, many points of joint differences we succeeded. I can recollect dozens of such cases, when on rather serious, significant questions, we managed together to get positive results close to what we wanted to achieve."
In a sign of the broadening Iran-Russia alliance, the two country’s foreign ministers held a call on Monday to discuss the talks in Vienna and the conflict in Ukraine.
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said on Monday that a deal is within reach if the Biden administration makes the concessions needed to finalize the agreement. Recent reports in Iranian state-controlled media and other regional outlets indicate the text of the deal is mostly finalized and that the United States only needs to give its approval.
The "prospect of a deal in Vienna talks remains unclear due to Washington's delay in making a political decision," Shamkhani tweeted on Monday, adding that "Iranian negotiators' priority is to resolve the remaining issues that are considered as our red lines."